Marie-Lou Guerrero MBE (former businesswoman and GFSB chairperson) decided to found the charity due to the dramatic increase in the number of people who had taken their own lives in Gibraltar during 2016. Marie-Lou knew four of them personally. As a result, she felt that she had to do something to help make a difference and improve the emotional and mental well-being of Gibraltar’s community.
There was no helpline people could turn to if they just needed someone to talk to, so this was the first gap Marie-Lou was determined to fill.
Marie-Lou sought the help and advice of a few like-minded individuals, including Peter Montegriffo QC and Dr Rene Beguelin. Together they founded GibSams as trustees and launched the service on 10th October 2017 (a date which coincided with World Mental Health Day).
The charity has enjoyed the continued support of Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo QC, from the outset. GibSams received a generous £10,000 grant from Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar to assist with the charity’s initial expenses. However, GibSams and its services are now wholly reliant on charitable donations.
GibSams’ board of trustees has grown to include even more non-remunerated individuals who work under Marie-Lou’s leadership by utilising their expertise and insight to identify ways in which the charity can help reduce the number of deaths by suicides in Gibraltar and to improve the delivery of the charity’s services.
The charity’s number of dedicated and trained volunteers has increased significantly since its launch, and this has allowed GibSams to expand further and improve its services. Its helpline and chat service are open every day, including holidays, from 18:00 to midnight. The charity also carries out its extensive Outreach Programme, Chatty Café, and Corporate Wellbeing Recognition schemes throughout Gibraltar’s community.
GibSams has worked hard since its inception to remove the stigma associated with mental health in Gibraltar and to encourage people to talk about their problems. Although much progress has already been made in this regard, there is still much to be done. Marie-Lou, her fellow trustees, and all GibSams volunteers continue to work tirelessly to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in Gibraltar and champion well-being for all.
In the words of the Minister for Public health, “GibSams is only three years old. Yet, no one can now imagine Gibraltar without GibSams!”