BOLTON Samaritans are introducing e-mail to communicate with those in need of a friend.

Volunteers from the charity, on Bark Street East, will be trained to use e-mails in a bid to reach more lonely or suicidal people.

Director of Bolton Samaritans Annie Fairhurst told the annual meeting that as there had been such a staggering increase in the number of people communicating via e-mails over the past 12 months, they wanted to get involved.

She said: "We're getting to know what we could provide with e-mails -- there is a long way to go, but we're doing all we can.

"Strong suicidal thoughts can be expressed through e-mails and we want to deal with that."

Samaritans groups received 37,000 contacts via e-mail over the past year nationally, but there are still only 34 branches which can receive them.

The number of people wanting help from Bolton Samaritans continued to rise over the past 12 months with a total of 19,568 contacts made -- an eight per cent increase from the previous year. Of them, 59 per cent of contacts were from males, 40 per cent from females and one per cent unknown.

The 82 volunteers at the Bolton branch took an average of 238 calls.

Despite a 25 per cent decrease in donations to Bolton Samaritans because of a reduction in legacies, fundraising initiatives increased thanks to the 'Pay for a Day' scheme and a new fundraising branch of 'Friends of Samaritans.'

The Bark Street East office is open for visitors without having to make an appointment from 8.30am to 9.30pm. Anyone wanting to become a volunteer or in need of a friend should call Bolton Samaritans on 521200. The national e-mail address is which is anonymous or the website is at