Samaritans volunteers in Ireland answer almost 3 million calls  over five years of freephone 116 123

Irish telecoms agree to support the Samaritans helpline for another five years


April 1st, 2019: Samaritans volunteers in Ireland have answered almost three million calls since the launch of the freephone helpline number 116 123 five years ago.


Samaritans Ireland is also delighted to announce that six major telecom providers - BT Ireland, eir, Sky Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone Ireland - have extended their partnership and agreed to support the helpline until 2024.


Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said: “I am delighted that all major telcom providers have agreed to continue to support the Samaritans and the vital work that they do. This agreement will mean that there will be no cost barrier to anyone who may need to call the Samaritans.”


Cindy O’Shea, Samaritans Irish Regional Director, said this ongoing financial backing from the industry will ensure anyone who need emotional support can continue to call Samaritans for free for another five years.


She also praised the charity’s 1,800 volunteers across the Republic of Ireland whose dedication has meant over 375,000 hours of listening were given 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round since 2014.


“Samaritans has been supporting people in Ireland since 1961, but the introduction of freephone made a huge impact. It is amazing that in that time volunteers have answered almost three million telephone calls, as well as given support to thousands more by text, email and face to face in branches, in communities, at festivals and in prisons,” said Ms O’Shea.


“We are thrilled that our largest telecommunications companies have shown their faith and confidence in us to continue delivering this service to their customers and others who need us in their darkest hours.”


An analysis of contacts from March 2014 - March 2019 has shown:


-          2.9 million calls were answered by volunteers

-          376,500 listening hours were given on phone

-          110,000 individual callers made contact

-          Busiest days: Saturday June 27th 2015 (2,334 calls); Monday October 5th 2015 (2,317 calls); Friday 19th January 2018 (2,292) and Tuesday August 16th 2017 (2,266)

-          Busiest time of day: 6pm to midnight with 35% of all calls

-          Busiest hour: 8pm to 9pm with 185,000 calls answered

Figures also showed more than 500,000 calls were answered by Samaritans volunteers last year, with almost 46,000 text replies and 5,300 emails sent. Over 4,000 people were also given emotional support in a branch or at a festival.

The main issues people contacted Samaritans about in 2018 included mental health/illness (36.2%), isolation/loneliness (30%), family issues (28.5%) and relationship problems (20.9%). Other callers raised concerns about physical health/illness, bereavement, violence/abuse, drug and/or alcohol misuse, and finance/unemployment. A number of these issues are often raised during one contact.


Suicidal thoughts were expressed in 16.6% of contacts.


Eleanor Farrell, Trustee for Samaritans Ireland, added: "Everyone has moments in their life where they struggle to cope, and we know that talking can really help people to see a way through their problems. While we are there for some of the most vulnerable groups in society, you don’t need to be suicidal to ring Samaritans. We would encourage anyone who is struggling in life to call Samaritans on freephone 116 123.”


The six telecom providers are members of IBEC’s Telecommunications Industry Ireland (TII).


BT Ireland Managing Director Shay Walsh, TII Chair, said: “Samaritans carries out critical work in supporting others, so each member was delighted to give its continued support to the Samaritans helpline. This unique partnership will continue to help those who need it most.”


Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD, added: "Samaritans Ireland provides a very valuable service to vulnerable people across the country. Samaritan volunteers have answered almost three million calls since the freephone number was set up five years ago. The service offers a supportive ear to people struggling with issues of loneliness and isolation and to people struggling with mental health conditions.


“I am delighted that Samaritans Ireland has secured support for their freephone number for the next five years, their service will play a crucial role in conjunction with the new national signposting telephone service that will be launched later this year. I would like to congratulate Samaritans Ireland, as well as all of their volunteers, for the exceptional work that they do, and I wish them the very best in the future."




For further information contact Sarah Stack, Communications & Policy Manager, Samaritans Ireland, on 01 671 0071, 085 860 5554 or email


For Virgin Media enquiries please contact, Anna-Maria Barry, Head of Public Relations, Virgin Media Ireland, on 01 245 8062, 086 227 2072 or email



Note to Editors

·         Anyone can contact Samaritans any time for free from any phone on 116 123. This number is free to call and will not show up on your phone bill. Or text 087 260 9090 (standard rates apply), email or go to to find details of your local branch where you can talk to a trained volunteers face to face.


·         In 2007, the European Commission decided to reserve numbers beginning with 116 for services of social value that would be common across all EU member states. The number 116 123 has been given for all 24-hour emotional support helplines. In Ireland, ComReg was charged with managing the assignment of the 116 numbers and awarded the emotional support helpline to Samaritans.


·         Since the number was allocated, Samaritans has partnered with the six largest telecoms providers (BT Ireland, eir, Sky Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone Ireland), which are members of IBEC’s Telecommunications Industry Ireland (TII).