Mission: Reduce suicide by alleviating despair, isolation, distress and suicidal feelings among individuals, 24 hours a day; educate the public about suicide prevention; help those who have lost a loved one to suicide; and reduce the stigma associated with suicide.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Relevance?
Samaritans serves those struggling with depression, mental illness, despair or suicidal ideation; those impacted by the loss of a loved one to suicide, and educates gatekeepers and individuals about how to prevent suicide by identifying signs of risk and how to respond.
Samaritans and more than 300 volunteers answer calls, texts, and online chats 24 hours/day to Samaritans statewide Helpline in an interactive and supportive, non-judgmental listening process; host peer facilitated SafePlace support groups in 6 locations for those who have lost someone to suicide; and train over 17,596 youth, employees, nurses, social workers and others in suicide prevention through 445 prevention workshops and 58 outreach events.
The circumstances leading to suicide are varied but often those who have died by suicide have a background of trauma, which may influence or be influenced by having a mental health problem, a history of alcohol and/or substance abuse, an intimate partner problem, or a history of non-fatal self-injuries.
According to Center for Disease Control and MA Department of Public Health data, the highest rate of suicide is white men aged 44 to 64, while the highest increase in suicide was shown to occur among adolescent girls.
Samaritans works collaboratively with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to answer calls from MA to the national number, other Samaritan organizations in MA, and hundreds of schools, community groups and employers to effectively deliver prevention strategies in MA.
As our outreach has grown, so has demand on the Helpline, requests for workshops, and attendance at SafePlace support groups. In 2015, 632 people died by suicide in MA, 4 times the number of deaths by homicide and 2 times the number of deaths by motor vehicle accident; in 2016, 638 died by suicide.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Impact?
“I’m depressed im crying, I want to kill myself but instead I decided to text you guys. A lady went to my school the other day and gave a wrist band with this number. I just want the feeling to go away.” – Helpline texter
Calls, texts, and chats to Samaritans Helpline are not only confidential but anonymous, which is critical for our service to be successful. While we are not able to track specific outcomes in terms of individual callers’ lives saved, we do rigorously track our success through the number of calls/texts/chats, number served, number of volunteers, level of risk of caller/texter/chatter, number of attendees and number of new attendees at SafePlace meetings, workshop attendance and myriad other data.
94% of workshop attendees report that they learned a great deal and 91% report they gained skills and confidence in helping someone at risk of suicide.
Many of our Helpline volunteers and all of our volunteer peer facilitators of SafePlace meetings and Survivor-to-Survivor visits have been impacted by suicide — either through the loss of a loved one or with their own struggles with depression and mental illness. These stakeholders inform our design and implementation of our services.
We connect the dots between our work and our results through research that has repeatedly shown that crisis lines staffed by volunteers are effective in preventing suicide, that 90% of those who attempt suicide ultimately die by other causes, and by the transformation we see in participants in our Grief Support Services as they move through their journey of healing from the devastation and complex grief of losing someone to suicide.
Our reporting system to staff, board, and the public keep us accountable in the same way our quality assurance program for volunteers on the Helpline provide a mechanism for accountability, support, and improvement for our volunteers.
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Sustainability?
Samaritans has a healthy, diversified mix of funding sources, with more than 54% of revenue garnered from individual donations and fundraising events (Breakfast for Hope, 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention, Boston Marathon Team), 22% of funding from institutional funders, 23% generated from government contracts (MA DPH, SAMHSA, etc.) and less than 1% as a United Way-supported agency. Samaritans ended FY18 (June 30) with a budget surplus of nearly $400,000 demonstrating that the organization is financially stable and actively building toward a six-month reserve.
We have introduced new fundraising opportunities in the last few years, such as our HopeRaisers peer-to-peer fundraising tool and the Monica Dickens Legacy Society to support planned giving.
The Samaritans Council, an entity composed of individuals who commit to supporting our fundraising efforts through personal giving while also widening the circle of support and engagement through introductions among their personal and corporate networks, is thriving, with current membership at 22.
Samaritans brought all wages to a minimum of $15/hour with an overnight differential, continues to make market adjustments to salaries as we are able, and utilizes one-time bonuses to recognize outstanding effort while we work to expand the budget for permanent salary adjustments.
We work closely with institutional, public, and individual funders to engage them in understanding and supporting our work.
We carefully steward our budget to meet funders’ expectations and requirements, provide the best implementation of our mission, and make financial documents such as our audit and 990 readily available on the website.
Our work has limited environmental impact and we have a paper recycling program and motion sensor lights.
EXCELLENCE IN MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS
How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Excellence in Management and Operations?
Our community of suicide loss survivors and those impacted by suicidal ideation and struggles are well represented on the staff, board, and amongst our 300+ volunteers.
Samaritans’ racial equity committee is examining and adjusting our policies, practices, and results with the question of whether we are adequately reflecting the communities we work with, resulting in several changes and ongoing assessment efforts, such as gathering data on race and ethnicity during volunteer onboarding, that will allow us to evaluate our efforts and identify needs.
We comply with all legal and ethical standards — our annual audit finds no deficiencies, we have updated personnel policies reflecting anti-discrimination and employee protection laws and best practices, and board self-dealing and whistle blower accountability procedures.
The Executive Director and staff are listed on our website SamaritansHope.org; our leadership team brings an impressive 34 years of combined management experience at the organization to their roles; funds are identified each year for professional development expenses, including the annual conferences of the Association of Suicidology and ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) for staff as needed.
Our deeply committed, 23-member volunteer Board of Directors is also identified on the website. All Board members make their own unrestricted gift and function effectively with 5 core committees (Executive, Governance and Nominations, Program, Finance, and Fundraising) along with 8 resource committees.
Volunteer training is extensive – Helpline volunteers participate in 30 hours of training plus 12 hours of mentored practice on the phones before they take calls or texts on their own; SafePlace and Survivor to Survivor volunteers receive similar amounts of training. Ongoing support and supplemental learning are provided for both groups and an annual appreciation event recognizes outstanding volunteers for the length and level of their service.
Samaritans is fortunate to be the recipient of pro bono design and marketing efforts throughout the MBTA system, design and videography for our events and website, in addition to a recently created marketing manager position that has significantly upgraded our social media and traditional marketing efforts.
An IT consultant provides support and is managed by a staff person, we have a high-level human resources committee that includes an HR executive and employment attorney, and a lawyer board member provides advice and referrals as needed.
Samaritans is constantly growing, learning and improving, motivated by our mission to save lives and offer hope to those who are suffering.
HOW DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION ENGAGE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS/EMERGING LEADERS?
Opportunities for young professionals and emerging leaders include:
- Board of Directors
- Samaritans Council
- Helpline volunteer
- Internships in Crisis Services, Marketing or Development
- SafePlace volunteer facilitator or Survivor to Survivor visitor volunteer positions for those who have lost someone to suicide
- Board and Resource Committee membership – Fundraising, Marketing, Breakfast for Hope, 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention, and others
- Team Captain for 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention
- Table Captain or Sponsor for Breakfast for Hope
- In-office and event volunteer opportunities including team leader positions