Party's criticism of Samaritans paints unfair picture

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2002, 12:00am

I read, with great concern, the comments on suicide prevention hotlines, made by Chan Kam-lam of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong ('Suicide hotlines flawed, DAB claims', South China Morning Post, August 5).

His criticism seemed to take no account of the fact that hotlines such as ours are run by volunteers and his statement that they are understaffed and ill-equipped paints an unfair picture.

I am one of about 90 unpaid, trained volunteers at the Samaritans Multilingual Suicide Prevention Service. More than two-thirds of those volunteers are bilingual in Cantonese and English and altogether our volunteers speak 12 different languages. It is a 24-hour service, seven days a week, every week of the year.

There are always volunteers at the end of the telephone for those who are despairing and suicidal, often three or four Samaritans during the evening. Over the last 12 months we have answered more than 27,000 calls.

I agree with Mr Chan that it would be helpful to have more volunteers manning our phones. Recruitment is an ongoing concern for all volunteer organisations, no less ours.

We run three training courses a year, each course consisting of a selection day and eight classes.

There is ongoing training after these. I do not think we are ill-equipped nor do I feel our volunteers' efforts should be discounted.

Our next classes begin on October 12. We need more volunteers.

If anyone would like to be there for the emotionally distressed or is, indeed, emotionally distressed, our telephone number is 2896 0000.


Acting Director

The Samaritans Multilingual

Suicide Prevention Service