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More than five million people a year going through tough times have had support from Samaritans volunteers.

National Lottery players helped fund the Samaritans’ switch to a free to call service - 116 123 - has seen the number of calls to Samaritans’ helpline rise by thousands a month, reaching more people in the lowest socio-economic groups who are at higher risk of suicide.

Samaritans has 20,000 volunteers who are on shift night and day to listen and support people who are struggling to cope. The service reached a huge milestone in September 2015 when the number connecting callers to a friendly voice became free from any phone, even a mobile without credit.

National Lottery funding of £1.4 million helped make the switch possible, after research showed that people who are less well-off are far more likely to take their own lives than those who are wealthier, with some on low incomes saying they were put off calling by the cost.

It was 2am when Wilson was struggling to deal with the grief of losing a close friend and called Samaritans. “Just to talk to somebody about how I felt, how much I was missing my mate. His illness had come so suddenly, it was unfair, I felt angry.

"And the fact that I didn’t know this person, but I could tell them anything, and there was no judgment, they were just there to listen. I was absolutely blown away, with the effects that just talking to somebody can have. My friend’s life was much too short and I’ll always miss him, but talking helped and made me feel better.”

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