Enraged customers have complained of being harassed throughout the day by incessant calls from the charity asking whether high petrol costs, gas and electricity price hikes and fears of redundancy are leading to feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.
One caller from Hull who wished to remain anonymous said: ‘I was just sitting down to pie and chips and a fag when the phone went. The guy asked if I felt like topping myself especially after the 6% increase announced by British Gas that day. I had been very happy up until that point. So when I said ‘No’ he said that I was suppressing my feelings, which wasn’t healthy, and that I should be on the verge of a breakdown like everyone else. I slammed the phone down and I then got seven more calls the same night which made me very depressed.’
In another incident a young mother from Budleigh Salterton was asked if she had post-natal depression. ‘I told them I hadn’t but then they said I probably hadn’t really looked into it enough especially against a background of the Government’s latest benefit cuts targeting unmarried mothers. After the tenth call it got to me so much that when looked in the pram I swore that the baby had grown horns and a tail.’
A spokesman for Samaritans said: ‘In these immensely depressing times we want to get to people before they feel the urge to call us, before it is too late. It’s just part of our new prevention programme. We’ve been talking to people over the ‘phone about difficult feelings for decades so our new call centres are helping to nip things in the bud.’
Ofcom has advised consumers to ignore these calls and not to get too depressed about planned increases by BT and other service providers. They have now set up premium rate help line at just £5.00 per minute plus a £1.50 connection fee.