Our history

From its foundation in 1957 to the present day: discover the historical milestones of Tel 143 and the project Heart2Heart.

1950

Idea

Father Chad Varah sets up the first telephone helpline in London in response to rising suicide rates worldwide after the Second World War. His newspaper advertisement, «Before you take your own life, seek help», attracted great interest and resulted in many calls.

1956-1958

Foundation

Pastor Kurt Scheitlin, entrepreneur Fred Pestalozzi and Migros founder Gottlieb Duttweiler take up Chad Varah’s idea. They provide start-up capital, premises and staff for Switzerland’s first telephone helpline in Zurich. On its first night, the centre receives 37 calls from people seeking help. By the end of 1958, 3,627 calls had been received.

1960-1975

The «Dargebotene Hand» comes into being

1960 The umbrella organisation is founded under the name «Die Dargebotene Hand». In 1966, the association commits itself to the international guidelines of the European Federation of Telephone Emergency Services (IFOTES). By 1975, twelve regional offices had been set up, covering the whole of Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. A special stamp was issued in 1975 to mark this milestone.

Telefon Rettungsring alte Telefonnummer 1960 klein

1976

Emergency number 143

The «Dargebotene Hand» enshrines denominational independence in its statutes, thus creating the conditions for a three-digit emergency number. Simplified access and public recognition lead to a threefold increase in the number of calls by 1982.

143 Glastuere Schatten 1980 klein

2002

Tel 143 goes online

With the introduction of the Internet, Tel 143 expands its services to include e-mail and chat counselling. Demand is high: any increase in capacity is immediately used.

2020

Pandemic and public recognition

During the pandemic, Tel 143 responds with increased capacity and receives a one-time financial support from the federal government. Federal Councillor Alain Berset visits the regional office in Berne and pays tribute to the great commitment of the volunteers in this crisis situation.

In autumn 2020, «Dargebotene Hand» will be awarded the Prix Courage Lifetime Award. The magazine «Der Beobachter» pays tribute to the many years of selfless support for others.

 Prix Courage Lifetime Award

2023

On track for the future

Tel 143 is holding strategic discussions about its future and modernising its brand and website. Thanks to the «Heart2Heart» project, the organisation is now accessible in English.

Heart2Heart