Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.
Thích Nhất Hạnh
1961 - 2021
In November 1961 a pilot for a new Samaritans service was opened on Spring Bank in Hull.
The trial was a success and Samaritans has had a branch in the city ever since. In 2020 the Hull branch responded to over 14,000 phone calls and 1500 emails.
Samaritans was founded in 1953 by a young vicar called Chad Varah, who wanted to help people who were struggling to cope but felt they had no one to turn to.
Early on in his career, Chad had conducted a funeral for a 14 year-old girl who had taken her own life.
When he became the vicar of St. Stephen Walbrook in the City of London, Chad knew the time was right for him to launch what he called a '999 for the suicidal' At that time, suicide was illegal in England but he was, in his own words, 'a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone.'
The first call to Samaritans was made on 2 November 1953
Chad knew he would need to get the word out about the service.
He wrote and illustrated articles for children’s comics, so he knew many of the journalists who worked on national newspapers and the service received lots of press coverage.
On 7 December 1953, the Daily Mirror referred to the service as the ‘Good Samaritans’ and the name stuck. Thanks to newspaper coverage, Chad received many callers who wanted support both on the phone and face to face, as well as people who wanted to help as volunteers.
The simple act of listening and offering non-judgmental support was enough for most callers, and Chad realised the power of the service was in providing a safe space so people could talk and be listened to, without judgement.