Reflections from our CEO – Reflect and Reimagine

Reflect and Reimagine is a perfect theme for this year’s Annual Report.  The past 19 months have forced most of us to reflect on and reimagine many things – personally and professionally. For Samaritans it has propelled wonderfully productive improvements to our programs in order to better meet the needs of those who use our services.  

There are many examples to share but I want to focus on a core tenant of what we do: Befriending. Befriending is our unique and powerful approach to supporting people who reach out to us. Befriending is the non-judgmental, compassionate listening we provide on our Helpline, is taught in our workshops and is offered in our grief support meetings. 

Befriending provides people with the opportunity to express their struggles, to voice their fears and concerns, and to share an often-painful story. Our trained volunteers respond with compassion, allowing the individual to feel heard and supported, reducing feelings of isolation and anxiety as well as high levels of emotional distress. 

Serving more people across the state than any other suicide prevention organization also holds leadership responsibility for us, especially in a changing landscape with the onset of the 988 system and the Commonwealth’s development of a Behavioral Health Access Line. We will continue to collaborate with the Exec Office of Human Services, statewide agencies and organizations, and police departments to reimagine the response to mental health emergencies and ensure the safety of individuals and families as well as providing responders with the tools and support they need for themselves. 

The reimagining we have done throughout the pandemic has prepped us for what is ahead, as much is yet unknown. Samaritans will be at the table asking hard questions, voicing concerns and sharing our expertise so that more people can find the help they need, when the need it, and so that we can continue providing the unique and effective Befriending support we are known for. 

Our collaboration with Mass General Brigham, to provide a system of support to people who are at extremely high risk for suicide immediately following discharge from an Emergency Room or inpatient care is also a reimagining of our services. Because of reputation, and our extensive expertise in – identifying, training, and supporting volunteers in our programs – MGB came to us. In nearly a year of meetings we have helped to build an Enhanced Outreach program that will support their research and are now creating a model for training that will be used in a pilot program. This program will ultimately be a model for scale across the country with the use of trained and highly skilled volunteers, potentially changing the way we support those at the highest risk for suicide at the most crucial time.

In recent weeks a committee of Board members and the Senior Leadership Team have been finalizing a draft of a strategic plan for the next 5 years. It brings together both reflections on what we do well and what we can reimagine, develop, create, seed for the future of suicide prevention. I am extremely excited about this plan and look forward to sharing more with all of you very soon.