Voluntary sex chat
Their main aim is to continue to provide a service to those who need it most - the lonely and suicidal.
While Armson stresses, "Samaritans always err on the side of caution with a caller and therefore listen long enough to establish properly what the call is about", Samaritans can now end a call if they feel it is genuinely abusive.
"In the old days, I used to listen and listen, whatever someone said," says the seasoned Samaritan.
"I explain how I can help and that if he persists I won't be able to help further and, after a time, I will end the call.
MIND, the mental health charity, has had a persistent female caller for eight years who finally had her phone cut off by BT and was given a prison sentence for harassment; CRUSE, who help the bereaved, report sex calls from frustrated widows (usually sex talk rather than masturbatory); RELATE, the relationship counselling organisation, has threatening calls from irate husbands and partners; disability organisations are harangued by occasional fascist callers, saying disabled people should be exterminated.
Last February, the Samaritans launched "Operation 10,000" to recruit another 10,000 volunteers, because volunteers fell by four per cent in 1996, while the volume of calls increased by five per cent.
The proliferation of helplines has meant an increase in the number of unpleasant calls to voluntary sector agencies.
Most report, very relunctantly, that they do receive malicious calls.
"We are always trying to reach the person, to convey that we care about them, even if some of them are addicted to this kind of behaviour." Psychosexual psychotherapist Dr Sidney Crown would argue that some of these callers are trying to get help for their addictive sexual behaviour.
"A man who is inhibited about going to a proper counsellor or therapist about their problem may phone an organisation like the Samaritans," he says.
Kathy Mulville, acting director of the THA, explains: "We aim to help the public contact bona fide helplines and help practitioners work together to improve their service and protect themselves." Another ethical problem facing helplines is finding a balance between maintaining confidentiality and protecting themselves.