Scotmid Co-operative and Samaritans have embarked on a year-long partnership, which aims to raise £300,000, recruit local volunteers and raise awareness for the charity.
Every six seconds somebody contacts Samaritans for help, with 2,000 trained volunteers across Scotland, Ireland and northern England offering a safe space where people can access support 24 hours a day.
Scotmid says funds raised through the partnership will help the charity keep its 42 branches open across the regions; £300,000 could help Samaritans listen to 60,000 more calls from people in crisis.
Its Semichem, Lakes & Dales Co-operative and Scotmid Co-operative Funeral Directors brands will also be involved in the fundraising.
The society’s chief executive, John Brodie, said: “Everybody at Scotmid is excited about the start of our year-long charity partnership with Samaritans and what we can achieve together over the next 12 months.
“Since 1859, Scotmid Co-operative has been at the heart of communities and during people’s everyday lives, they will experience difficulties and sometimes those problems can be overwhelming. When that happens, people will often require help or need to talk through their problems, which is where Samaritans provides an extremely valuable service.
“One of our aims is to help educate our customers and members about Samaritans and the fact that it is okay to talk about your problems. Removing the stigma associated with talking about personal issues is one of the goals of this charity partnership and hopefully we can help to make a difference to the lives of our customers, members and staff.”
Representatives from Scotmid, Kilmarnock Samaritans volunteers and caller Steven Fegan came together in the town to mark the beginning of the year-long partnership.
Steven, 33, from Kilmarnock, found the support he received from Samaritans invaluable.
He said: “I was struck down by a virus when I was 16 and it left my back and leg muscles so weak I needed to use a wheelchair.
“I don’t think I dealt with how I was feeling at the time and the feelings came back to trouble me more recently when my best friend took his own life. You have these feelings of guilt that you should have seen something or realised your friend was hurting.”
These feelings of hopelessness that became overwhelmeing and Steven began to self-harm.
“I would wake every day feeling weak, and being a man, you’re supposed to be strong,” he said, “and I just felt like I was stressing my family out unnecessarily.”
Steven doesn’t know what drew him to call Samaritans one evening, but he was glad that he did. “I could hardly say anything at first, but the volunteer was brilliant, and there was no pressure on me to speak. Just by being on the phone, it stopped me from doing anything else.
“I am so pleased that Scotmid are supporting such a wonderful charity – the money raised will go a long way towards helping a lot of people. Just £5 helps Samaritans respond to someone struggling to cope and £46 will help them to train and support an existing volunteer for one year.”
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of Samaritans, said: “Steven is very brave to talk about what must have been a very difficult period of his life, and I’m so glad he reached out to Samaritans.
“Life can be tough and it can be all too easy to feel alone in the world with nowhere to turn. Our volunteers are there to listen 24 hours a day and we’re extremely grateful for Scotmid’s support.
“Funds raised through the partnership will help us to continue saving lives. We look forward to working together over the months ahead.”