THE best thing you can teach your child is the ability to talk about their feelings. That is the message to parents from the director of the Cork branch of the Samaritans, Cindy O’Shea.

Ms O’Shea, right, is urging parents to help provide their children with the necessary skill of talking so that when they get older, they will be well equipped to talk about any issues affecting them, instead of bottling them up. Each year, the Samaritans in Cork handle an average of 40,000 calls a year — translating into an average of 120 calls a day.

She said: “An important message to get out to parents is the need to get their children to talk, talk, talk. They need to talk about their feelings.” Ms O’Shea said the Samaritans was traditionally an organisation which focused on suicide prevention. But she said the focus is now on getting people to talk before they reach the point of suicidal thoughts.

“We need to get people to talk to us. No matter how small the problem is, it is important to us if you need to talk about it. “Every caller is the most important thing to us for the time they are talking to us. They are the most important thing in the world to us when they ring us and we are there 100% for them. “Life is worth talking about, and the emphasis here is on the word ‘life’.”

People who ring the Samaritans often do so because they feel they have nobody to talk to about how they are feeling. In other cases, they feel they have become a burden to the people they used to share their problems with, or they do not want people in their circle to know they are feeling suicidal.

Ms O’Shea remembers one caller in recent years who had made a plan to take his own life and she said he even had a date and the method fully prepared. She often thinks about that man and wonders if he did take his life. Anonymity is preserved in contacts made by anyone to the Samaritans and no phone call is ever traced or followed up, to respect the dignity of the caller.

At present, the number of calls, texts and emails being received at the Coach Street office in Cork city is high, with many expressing thoughts around suicide. But Cindy said there is unlikely to be an increase in the number of calls for the year because there was a fall off during the heatwave in July.

She said: “We didn’t see a spike in calls around the budget. But we did get a lot of calls on the topic of abortion during the abortion legislation debate from women who have gone through abortions and who were very upset by images used by the pro-life campaign in the debate.

“There are also spikes in calls when issues like child abuse, domestic violence and mental health are being discussed in chat shows or being developed as storylines in soaps.

“Since the recession, any tensions which people have are exacerbated by financial worries. The level of stress people ring us with is incredibly high.”

The Samaritans are holding an information evening at 7.30pm on December 11 at Coach Street for anyone interested in becoming a Samaritans volunteer.