A North Yorkshire branch of the Samaritans is celebrating 60 years of supporting people in need and is calling for night owls to come and help.

Northallerton and the Dales Samaritans branch is marking its 60th anniversary of answering the phone to people in distress. To celebrate, it is launching a campaign to recruit and train more local volunteers, particularly those who are able to help man the Northallerton phones for a three hour shift between 10pm and 6am.

Branch director Debbie Lynch said it is looking for night owls who may find it more convenient to do their volunteering during the early hours of the morning.

She added: "During the night-time hours Samaritans is often the only service available for people who really need some support. It is so important that we are there as it is often in the middle of the night that people find their problems and worries most overwhelming.

"We are calling this campaign 'Help us Light up the night'  and hope to recruit more volunteers to help us achieve the Samaritans’ vision that fewer people die by suicide.”

The Northallerton branch of Samaritans currently has 50 dedicated volunteers who every week help the branch deliver 120 hours of listening support on the phone. All volunteers receive rigorous training and ongoing support and many friendships have been forged amongst the volunteers who support each other during a shift.

At the moment volunteers travel from surrounding towns and villages as far as Stokesley, Helmsley, Thirsk, Leyburn and Richmond as well as those living within Northallerton where it is based.

It was the first rural branch to be set up in the UK and is now one of 200 across the country. Renowned vet and James Herriot author Alf Wight was one of the first volunteers after he recognised the hardships among the local farming community.

Debbie added: "If you think you could be a good listener and would be happy to volunteer during the night please visit the Northallerton and the Dales Samaritans website where you can learn more and complete an online application form.

"We will also be organising more events from Northallerton Samaritans throughout the year to celebrate our amazing 60th anniversary."

Samaritans can be contacted by ringing 116123 free from any phone or 03300945717 when local call charges apply.