The first Samaritans center was founded in London in 1953 by Chad Varah, an Anglican priest. From his experience counseling parishioners, Chad realized the need for a number those in crisis could call to receive support.
The Samaritans concept was brought to the U.S. by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. She had trained and taken calls on the crisis line in the U.K. and when she married and moved to Boston in April 1974, she opened the first U.S. Samaritans center. After moving to Falmouth, MA, she founded The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands in November 1977.
In 1979, Monica worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to add the now iconic “Desperate?” signs that are on both sides of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges leading to Cape Cod. She was also instrumental in helping to erect steel barriers, known as suicide prevention barriers, along each bridge in the early 1980s.
Since its inception, Samaritans programs and reach have grown exponentially. Today, Samaritans volunteers provide non-judgmental, active listening to callers in need on our Crisis Lines, older adults in our Senior Outreach program, suicide loss survivors in our Safe Place support groups, and suicide attempt survivors and their families in our A Caring Connection and A Second Chance programs.
As members of the oldest and largest suicide prevention network in the world, we encourage our community to talk openly about suicide in order to best help and provide hope to those in need.
“We are not here to solve problems. We are not here to give advice. We are not here to refer people to experts. We are here to suffer with people and let them go away feeling better. We feel at the best of times that we have really been human. I find people all over the world who say, ‘This is the most important thing I do in my life.’”
— Chad Varah, Boston, 1978