WBZ Cares: History Of Samaritans

Samaritans (Photo Credit: Samaritans Inc./Facebook)

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community. This month WBZ is profiling Samaritans, a non-profit suicide prevention service. Their mission is to reduce the incidence of suicide by alleviating despair, isolation, distress and suicidal feelings among individuals in the community, 24 hours a day; to educate the public about suicide prevention; to help those who have lost a loved one to suicide; and to reduce the stigma associated with suicide.

Samaritans has a rather storied history here.

“Monica Dickens, who’s a great granddaughter of Charles Dickens, was a volunteer in London and she moved to Boston in the early 70s and was upset to realize that Samaritans didn’t exist in the United States, so she founded The Boston Samaritans in 1974. And she lived on Cape Cod, so she also founded a chapter in the cape but she lobbied to put those signs that are right now almost historical landmarks on the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges that say ‘Desperate? Feeling lonely call Samaritans’ we’re thankful to Monica Dickens for doing that. And she also helped put up the barrier fencing on those bridges,” said Executive Director Steve Mongeau.

And now Samaritans fields more than 80-thousand calls, texts, and chats from people in crisis each year and provides community education and outreach, along with grief support groups. Samaritans Board member Jane Quercia has been affiliated with the organization for more than three-decades. I asked her if she believes they made progress down through the years on suicide prevention.

“I do. Just partly because people are calling us. Way back when, you didn’t know who to call. If you didn’t have a therapist or you were too shy to call a therapist, you sort of sat with it unless you went to clergy and sometimes that wasn’t helpful based on what the thought process was back then. So I do think we are making progress and I do see, especially if people do keep coming back to safe place meetings, that means it is helping them,” said Quercia.

WBZ NewsRadio1030's Doug Cope Reports

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