Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Bad Samaritans

The Samaritans are not meant to advise callers at all - nevermind advise suicide!
Quite recently, I met a man who confided in me a crime or series of crimes (he was so drunk that he cannot remember whether he was guilty or not) that he committed over 30 years ago - a crime for which he served 10 years in prison.

The crime for which he served time was unspeakably terrible and because of this his guilt and despair was huge and to a point still is. I've done some 'unspeakable' things in my time also. The man in question has been 20 years off alcohol and he lives now, in his own words, to try and atone for what he did.  However, his crime is not the subject of this blog post, horrendous as it was. No, the truly horrifying thing that he told me is that when he called The Samaritans relatively recently and he told them his 'story', he told whoever was on the receiver at The Samaritans that he felt suicidal and that he was contemplating taking his own life. His story is tragic and shocking, but perhaps more shocking is that on telling the volunteer at the Samaritans that he felt like taking his life, he alleges the volunteer told him to "go ahead and do it", presumably because his offense repulsed him or her.

The man in question is a Catholic, but is currently involved what sounds to be a Pentecostal church which teaches him about a "one to one" relationship with God which has led him to have powerful religious "experiences". I told him that experiences can be deceiving and, given his long period of absence from Holy Mother Church, spent a concerted amount of time impressing upon him the Grace of the Sacrament of Penance and the truths of the One True Church, as well as the role of St Peter and his Successors.

I don't have any Holy Rosaries at the moment, so if someone wants they could purchase or send one to me so that I can give it to him. He says he would like one. Say a prayer for him because he is still, due to his current family situation and his past, overwhelmed by despair and thoughts of suicide. The Lord Jesus did not come into the World to condemn the World but by His Death and Resurrection, to save it and reconcile us to His Eternal Father. Again and again, Our Blessed Lord talked of His coming to find the lost sheep, of His ardent desire to bring sinners to find refuge in His Sacred Heart, overflowing with mercy and tender love. Sadly, The Samaritans, on this occasion at least, were found wanting in both their professional conduct and their ability to offer compassion to the suicidal and despairing. Shame on that volunteer, whoever he or she was!


Millie said...

As part of Samaritans' training, the listening volunteer is taught how to walk alongside the Caller without pushing him towards an outcome. The Caller is encouraged (by careful open questioning) to talk through the issues affecting him (or her) with the aim of helping him to come to his own conclusions about the right way forward for him. Each Caller will have different needs.

Samaritans are selected on their ability to remain non-judgemental when wearing their Samaritans "hats". This can cause internal turmoil to Catholic volunteers, but that's another story. When they are on duty as Samaritans, they absolutely have to adopt the Samaritans' religion of "choice". A Caller must be allowed to "choose" his outcome, be it suicide or abortion or perceiving his circumstances differently.

Samaritans listening volunteers concentrate on a Caller's feelings, not on the issues he brings with him to the call. If the Caller happens to be alcoholic or paedophilic, for example, the Caller's feelings take precedence.

Feelings can be notoriously unreliable, of course, and that is the service's weakness. But despite the hurdles that the system places before them, Catholic Samaritans can still reach out compassionately to Callers from across the spectrum of human weakness.

The Bones said...

Yes, I'm aware of the training and the 'non-judgemental' aspect of that training and the fact they are not meant to advise at all - just listen - so that was why I was shocked when I heard one of them went 'beyond the call of duty' on this occasion.

Anonymous said...

I've got a spare Rosary I would be happy to send down to you if you. I can send it direct to you or care of your church if you would prefer not to give your address out (which I would quite understand)

Let me know either via a comment on here or on my site (first posts are moderated so it wouldn't be public) or a message on my twitter.


The Bones said...

If you send it to St Mary Magdalen Church, 55 Upper North Street, Brighton BN1 4ZB, I can pick it up from there. Thanks and God bless

Anonymous said...

No worries, I shall send that tomorrow C/O the church.

Millie said...

This is very difficult, because Samaritans listening volunteers do sometimes receive complaints about what another volunteer is alleged to have said over the phone to a Caller.

Usually it becomes clear during the course of a call whether the complaint (e.g. about going beyond the call of duty) is genuine or if the Caller is projecting onto the Samaritan the blame for his rage about another issue in his or her life.

Ringing Samaritans can be not unlike going to the G.P. with a Really Embarrassing Complaint . . . the patient presents with an issue, but dares to disclose his fears about the big problem only as he is going out of the consulting room door. The presenting issue to Samaritans can include anger and disappointment targeted towards the volunteer picking up the phone. There are ways of gently finding out what the Caller deep down wants to talk through including Really Difficult Issues including suicide.

It may be, of course, that the Caller feels his complaint is absolutely genuine, in which case a call to Samaritans General Office in Kingston T: 020 8394 8300 should be made as a matter of urgency.

Cross! said...

Millie, you have done a grand job of avoiding the issue!

Samaritan volunteers do not all conduct themselves in the manner that they should! From my professional experience, I have heard many unsatisfied people who have used the service!


Forget about complaining to Samaritans UNLESS you have an audio recording of the call. Even then, expect the movement to close ranks. It is a corrupt organisation, with numerous appalling people who are simply on the wrong end of the phone. The ONLY way to get justice is to force Samaritans' hand by taking your evidence to the press.

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