FEATURE17 May 2021

Samaritans CEO Julie Bentley on wellbeing, working together & imposter syndrome

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Charities Features Impact People Wellbeing

With a passion for social justice, Samaritans chief executive Julie Bentley believes we need to change the systems that damage wellbeing, she tells Jane Simms.

Julie Bentley, Samaritans CEO 1 (1)-fair-data-logo

Samaritans has had a busy year. Between 23 March 2020, the day the UK went into the first Covid-19 lockdown, and 20 December, volunteers from the suicide prevention charity answered a call for help every seven seconds, providing support more than 1.7m times and spending over one million hours on phone and email conversations.

The charity also launched a self-help app, and, in collaboration with Mind, Shout, Hospice UK and the Royal Foundation, introduced a new service, ‘Our Frontline’, giving targeted support to NHS and other keyworkers.

Yet, despite growing demand for its support, volunteer numbers fell – by up to a third at one point – largely because of self-isolation and social distancing measures in its 201 branches.

So, have the past few months felt like a kind of baptism of fire for Julie Bentley, who joined as chief executive in November 2020?

On the contrary, she says. “Obviously, it’s a bit challenging joining an organisation during lockdown when you ...