The first help-line with volunteer listeners in Europe started in London in 1953, thanks to the original intuition of Rev. Chad Varah. The Association of “the Samaritans” was founded.

Other help-lines follow in the main European cities:
1956 - Telefonseelsorge in Berlin
1957 - Die Dargebotene Hand in Zurich
1958 - Telefonische Hulpdienst in Rotterdam
1958 - Kirkens Nattjeneste in Oslo
1959 - Tele-Accueil in Brussels
1960 - SOS Amitié in Paris
1963 - Telefono Amico in Florence

The history of IFOTES is closely related to the prevention of suicide. It began in the 60s in Geneva and
finally, after almost 7 years of exchanges between the founders, in 1967 IFOTES officially came into
. The Statutes and the International Norms were conceived and accepted by all members. They were
reformulated in 1973 and readjusted in 1994, 2000 and 2010 but are still in force .

The founders allowed each member country to keep its own way of working, but prohibited all tendencies
to influence the caller. In essence:
The Telephone Emergency Services are not a new social service but a particular attitude that cannot be
found in talking to a minister, a doctor or a social worker.

Aims and methods of work were laid down and particularly the principles of the Federation. These dealt
with important matters such as:
- the 24-hours availability of the services to people in distress who may be suicidal
- confidentiality
- the possibility for the caller to remain anonymous (whether he calls on the telephone or in person )
- the selection and the training of the volunteers
- the refusal to exercise pressure of any kind, whether religious, political or ideological on either callers or

The countries represented in IFOTES in 1967 were: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the
Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Other countries have joined IFOTES over the decades, and some have withdrawn, to form the present
International Federation of 30 national Associations based in 20 countries.


1967-1973: Remi Mens – Belgium
1973-1976: Bruno Burger – Italy
1976-1985: Ellen Balaszeskul – Germany
1985-1988: Peter Stern – Sweden
1988-1997: Theo van Eupen – The Netherlands
1997-2000: Anne Ormond – Switzerland
2001-2010: Mark Milton – Switzerland
2010-2016: Stefan Schumacher – Germany
2016-in office: Tina Duvivier - France


1967: Brussels – Belgium. Foundation of IFOTES
1970: Stockholm – Sweden. “The liberating dialogue”
1973: Geneva – Switzerland. “Service to the caller”
1976: Berlin – Germany. “Possibilities and limits of interventions in the case of a crisis”
1979: Reims – France. “Solitude and suicide”
1982: York – Great Britain. “People in crises: challenge and response”
1985: Rome – Italy. “Possibilities of help in crises - Place of the volunteer in our society”
1988: Helsinki – Finland. “The TES for whom, for what and how?”
1991: Amsterdam – The Netherlands. “Meeting - Encounter”
1994: Jerusalem – Israel. “Help and Hope”
1997: Lindau – Germany. “No barriers, no boundaries”
2000: Seville – Spain. “What hope for the coming millennium”
2003: Ljubljana – Slovenia. “The joy of living”
2007: Prato – Italy. “Emotional Health – a new consciousness”
2010: Vienna – Austria. “Listening for Peace – exploring alternatives to violence”
2013: Goteborg – Sweden. “Vulnerability as a challenge”
2016: Aachen – Germany. “For life to go on. 50 years of providing emotional support and preventing suicide”