A record number of people contacted the Samaritans for help last year, new figures reveal.
The charity said it received more than 5.7 million calls to the helpline in 2016 - an increase of nearly 300,000 on the previous year. The figures were released to coincide with the start of Volunteers' Week.
Some of these calls were preventing suicides, said Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans' chief executive, who emphasised the importance of calls to the charity being free of charge.
“Suicide is complex but it's also an inequality issue and a number of factors, including deprivation, can put you at increased risk," she said. "Even two pence a minute was enough to deter some callers, which is why we were determined to make all calls to Samaritans free."
She added: ”These figures show our volunteers are making the difference by being there for increasing numbers of people, but we're just one part of the equation.“
The figures come shortly after it was revealed that nearly half (48 per cent) of public sector workers and a third (32 per cent) of those in the private sector, took time off for mental health reasons in 2016.
Ms Sutherland called on candidates from all parties in the upcoming general election, to put suicide prevention high on the agenda if they enter parliament. She said that suicide is “preventable” and that “everyone has a role to play from politicians, parents and health workers to employers, businesses and the media."
The Prime Minister pledged in January that the Government would take action to tackle the “stigma” around mental health problems, and the Conservatives have identified mental health as a “burning injustice” in their manifesto.
But the Conservative Party has been attacked for not pledging any extra funding for mental health services, which doctors and campaigners say have been struggling due to local authority cuts and increasing demand.
The Samaritans' free confidential helpline was launched in autumn 2015 and has been credited by the organisation for the rise in those seeking help.
You can contact the Samaritans by calling them for free from any phone for free on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.
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