By PETER OKELL
MANCHESTER Catholics, under an anonymous priestorganiser, have joined an Anglican minister in the Manchester Samaritans' work to help the lonely, depressed and sometimes suicidal people who ring the Samaritan's telephone number as a last plea for friendship and help.
During the last four months the organisation (telephone number Manchester BLAck friars 9000) has handled over 300 calls for assistance.
"Nut all the calls are 'life and death' ones, although on the London statistics some experts reckoned that about 40 per cent of the people helped in the capital were in immediate danger of taking their own lives.
"One of the chief causes of people wanting help is loneliness," said the Rev. Basil Higginson, the Anglican minister who founded the Manchester and Salford branch last October. "On the financial side we get people with clubs and H.P. shopping debts. and a lot of people we help are businessmen in difficulties over such matters as embezzlement and old firms going out of existence after take-over bids."
Catholics will take part. together with people of all religious denominations, in the Samaritans' plans for forming teams of counsellors, "flying squads" where urgent help is needed. and groups of people who will befriend lonely callers. A centre with all the necessary facilities has already been set up.
Among cases that have been helped were those of a young woman with throe children who decided to commit suicide after having had continual rows with her husband. and another. pregnant, woman with two daughters who had been abandoned by a man with whom she had been having an affair and also wanted to kill herself.
"In the case of Catholics," the priest-organiser told me, "suicide attempts are very rare. Most Catholics realise that suicide is against the teaching of the Church. The impression I have is that the Catholics who seek help from the telephone Samaritans are for one reason or another people who will not go to a priest in their own parish. They might be living outside the Church. Many of the problems we deal with are concerned with marriage."
Four types of workers are needed:
1. People with cars and telephones who will act as members of the "flying squads".
2. People who will man the telephones at BLA 9000 at night and at week-ends.
3. Counsellors who are trained in casework; and 4. People who will befriend those in need of help.
The organisation now aims to establish similar services in every major town and city in Britain with Catholics playing a full part in each.
0 Since the Rev. Chad Varah founded the Telephone Samaritans in London nine years ago, they have spread to 30 towns and cities in Britain, and there arc 50 branches abroad. including several in France. West Germany, Hol land, Belgium. Scandinavia, Ankara, Istanbul, Karachi and Hong Kong.