“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know — either through direct family or friends — stories of those deeply affected by mental health,” Gov. Maura Healey said.

Dozens gathered at the State House Monday to honor the 50-year anniversary of Samaritans, where Healey delivered her keynote address to a sea of shamrock green — the color of Samaritans’ commemorative shirts that read “Finding hope in human connection.”

Samaritans, a nonprofit suicide prevention organization founded in 1974, was the first organization of its kind in Massachusetts. It is one of five Massachusetts providers that callers can reach through the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline, launched in 2022, that offers free and confidential support for those experiencing mental health crises.

Samaritans provides four main services: its 24/7 helpline, the HeySam peer-to-peer texting service, community education and outreach, and suicide grief support.

For Sissi O’Shaughnessy, senior director of Suicide Grief Support Services at Samaritans, the cause is personal: O’Shaughnessy’s husband died by suicide in May 2020.

“When you lose someone to suicide, there are elements that are layered on top of [grieving someone who died by natural causes]. ... There’s guilt, there’s stigma,” O’Shaughnessy said. “People are less likely to reach out for help when they’ve lost someone to suicide.”

Her personal experience grieving a loved one inspired her to get involved. O’Shaughnessy started by speaking to children at schools. Openly communicating about the warning signs of suicidal ideation and the possibility of preventing suicides helped O’Shaughnessy with her own healing.

In her current role with Samaritans, O'Shaughnessy has honed ways to help those who have lost loved ones.

“That’s my hope for the program: that we can meet people where they are in their grief journey, and we can help them transform the hardest thing that has ever happened to them and help them grow from it and learn from it and eventually find meaning by helping others,” she explained.

Samaritans’ phone and text lines are manned by staff and volunteers. Since their start in 1974, 6,500 trained volunteers have fielded over three million calls, texts and chats.

Brooklyn McDermott-Hyland was 15 when she started volunteering on the phone lines after hearing a suicide prevention presentation at her high school in 2016. Now a senior at Stonehill College, McDermott-Hyland works as a shift supervisor at Samaritans, offering support for staff and volunteers.

Despite hearing stories of pain on a daily basis, McDermott-Hyland says that being on the receiving end of phone calls and texts has made it easier for her to talk about her own mental health.

“It’s definitely made me a more empathetic person. It’s made me a better friend, a better daughter, a better family member,” said McDermott-Hyland.

Kennedy Elsey, who co-hosts “Karson & Kennedy” on Mix 104.1, sits on the Samaritan board of directors. Elsey has utilized the helpline services in a time of crisis herself and says the experience helped her immensely.

“I know firsthand — on both sides of the table — the great work they do,” said Elsey. “It’s saved so many people, it’s given so many people a voice, it’s given so many people a place to go where they didn’t know where else to turn.”

Michael Davis, Samaritans’ community outreach and partnerships manager, says that the most important role of Samaritans is to be a good listener for those in need.

“For whatever the reason, call us,” Davis said. “We just want to be here. ... You don’t even have to tell me your name. We just want to listen.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or use the Crisis Text Line by texting “Home” to 741741. More resources are available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.