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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A fire-spotter to stop conflagrations in human lives: Chad Varah of the Samaritans

Edward Varah, founder of the Samaritans suicide prevention group, died this month near London, at age 95.

He grew up in England, the son of a minister in the Church of England. Just before he was ordained as a young man, he had presided over the funeral of a 13-year-old who killed herself because she mistook menstruation for a symptom of venereal disease.

This was a pivotal experience in his life, as his parish experience showed him that sexual problems drove many to contemplate suicide. He enlisted parishioners to help him field calls to prevent suicides. He started the Samaritans with a newspaper ad pleading for volunteers who would come to his historic London church and use "active listening therapy" to help the hundreds of people who contemplated suicide each day. After formalizing the Samaritans organization, he wrote a guidebook and became a spokesman for the group.

He said he once thought of the Samaritans as fire spotters who "keep watch for the conflagrations that break out in human lives."

Samaritans now operate in more than 40 countries, where it is also known as Befrienders Worldwide. Father Varah was widely recognized for having pioneered the phone help line for those threatening suicide, and he received honors from the American Association of Suicidology and Queen Elizabeth II.

Advice: Volunteer, and help stop the conflagrations in human lives.

Browse the index at the very bottom of this page for related stories, or read another suicide prevention story. Thanks to Adam Bernstein, who wrote the source story in the Nov. 15 issue of the Boston Globe.

1 comment:

Marc Wong said...

I am a former volunteer who just wrote something about listening.