Mental health researchers at The University of Nottingham are appealing for people who have contacted Samaritans to come forward to take part in a new study.
They have been commissioned by the charity, which offers round-the-clock emotional support to people in distress or despair including those who may be at risk of suicide, to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of Samaritans' three main services - its 24-hour confidential helpline, e-mail and SMS text message support systems.
The results of the two-year research project will greatly help Samaritans to understand more about how and why callers contact them and the impact of this. The research will inform the development of their services to enable them to provide more effective emotional support. It will also inform public perceptions about the organisation and contribute to best practice in this field.
The study is being led by Dr Martin Anderson, Associate Professor for the University's School of Nursing. He said: "Samaritans has supported people in distress for over 50 years via its telephone helpline and more recently its email and text services. The confidential nature of Samaritans support means that volunteers rarely receive any feedback from callers regarding their experience of contact and how they feel it has helped them, or could have been more effective.
"This information is vital to the organisation in order for it to improve the service it provides, and develop the most appropriate and effective means of supporting callers in the future."
Researchers are aiming to understand why people contact Samaritans, why they use particular methods of contact and, most importantly, how Samaritans helps them.
They are particularly interested in looking at use of services by young people, the long-term impact of support and the consistency of support offered.
They are asking people who have used Samaritans' helpline, e-mail and SMS text services to either take part in a confidential telephone interview, fill in an online survey and/or provide them with permission to analyse the contents of supportive e-mails and text messages.
Researchers are keen to stress that the privacy of anyone coming forward to take part will be protected. All surveys are confidential and text and e-mail content will be made anonymous, accessed only by members of the research team.
The study follows a wide consultation by the charity with callers and volunteers about how the research should be carried out. The consultation phase, which took place between September and December last year, included a series of workshops with Samaritans volunteers across the UK and a survey for callers and Samaritans volunteers on the charity's website.
As a result of the consultation exercise, the research team agreed to undergo Samaritans' Initial Training course to further their understanding of how Samaritans volunteers provide emotional support to their callers. They have also designed the research methods taking into account issues raised by volunteers such as confidentiality and the way in which the findings will be presented.
The results of the research will be used to form the basis of a report for Samaritans following the study's completion in January 2010.
More information about the study and how to take part can be found on the Samaritans' website at www.samaritans.org or the website for the study at www.nottingham.ac.uk/nursing/shelp
Alternatively, contact Michelle Stubley on 0115 823 0956 or 07825 753 816 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation - School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.