Samaritans providing a listening ear throughout Christmas period

PACEMAKER BFST:''Mental Health illustration photograph with male model.
PACEMAKER BFST:''Mental Health illustration photograph with male model.

New figures reveal one in three calls to Samaritans on Christmas Day are from people who feel lonely and isolated.

The festive period can be a challenging time for some and that’s why Samaritans volunteers from the Craigavon branch are helping to keep the service running for those in need throughout the Christmas break, even on Christmas Day.

Samaritans responded to more than 400,000 calls for help during December 2017, by phone, email and text across Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Despite all the festivities, more than 11,000 of those calls for help and emotional support came in on Christmas Day.

Samaritans is asking all of us to give the gift of a listening ear this Christmas, by encouraging friends and family going through a difficult time to open up and know that it’s OK to not be OK, even at Christmas.

To make it easier, the charity has produced a set of vouchers to download from the Samaritans website, offering time to listen as a present. A pair of novelty socks won’t save a life but listening can make a huge difference.

Emma Gale knows just how much difference it can make. She endured years of health problems and was unable to get a diagnosis. Emma said: “In the run up to Christmas 2016 I was sent home from hospital. I felt ill, very lonely and a burden to everyone around me. I decided my family would be far better off without me and made plans to end my life. After driving to a quiet spot, I decided to call Samaritans for the first and only time in my life. I just needed someone to talk to, so I didn’t feel so alone.

“The impact of that call was huge, it was a listening non-judgemental ear. From there my life completely turned around. The next day I went to a hospital appointment and I got a diagnosis for a rare genetic condition. I will never forget what that Samaritan did for me that Christmas, they gave me the biggest gift possible – the gift of life.”

Emma’s life has changed so much since that call that now she’s become a Samaritans volunteer herself and will be doing a shift on the phones over Christmas for the first time this year, helping others who are struggling to cope.

Samaritan volunteers from the Craigavon branch, will also be on the phones over Christmas and as one said: “Until you’ve sat in a Samaritans phone room and taken those calls over Christmas, you have no idea how tough it can be for a lot of people.

“Some people assume Samaritans are just about suicide prevention, but there’s so much more to what we do, so many issues we deal with on a daily basis. Christmas feels like a condensed version of that, people’s problems seem to be turned up a notch at this time of year. For me, not to be answering the phones over Christmas just isn’t Christmas at all. The best present we can give someone is our time to listen.”

Vivienne, Director Craigavon branch of Samaritans said: “If you’re feeling like it’s all too much, let someone know, don’t hide your feelings. You can always call Samaritans. Whether you’re on your own, or alone in a crowd, feeling lonely and isolated can be exacerbated at this time of year. If you are having a good time at Christmas, make time to listen to others if it’s not so great for them. Just having someone to listen can be a huge relief, and make things easier to bear.”

You can download Samaritans’ Give The Gift of Listening vouchers for free at: http://www.samaritans.org/christmas2018. Anyone can contact Samaritans any time for free on 116 123.

This number is free to call and will not show up on your phone bill. Or email jo@samaritans.org or go to www.samaritans.org to find details of your local branch where you can talk to one of our trained volunteers face to face.

Samaritans responds to more than 5 million calls for help a year.

Samaritans is a charity and it’s the public’s kind donations and more than 20,000 trained volunteers that mean we are always there for anyone struggling to cope. Your money or your time could save a life. Find out how you can support us: http://www.samaritans.org/support-us