Volunteers support those needing help at a tough time of year
As tinsel and fairy lights adorn the streets up and down the country, it can be easy to overlook how the festive season can be the hardest time of the year for some.
Last Christmas, Samaritans, the only charity that is there for anyone struggling to cope 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, responded to more than 300,000 calls for help.
On Christmas Eve 2018, while many were hanging up their stockings and getting ready for Santa’s arrival, almost 1,650 dedicated Samaritans volunteers were reporting for duty at Samaritans branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland. The very next day, over 1,475 Samaritans volunteers headed to branches and responded to thousands of calls for help from people feeling overwhelmed on 25th December.
Each volunteer answered an average of 12 calls per Christmas shift, with callers sharing a wide range of personal challenges from mental and physical health struggles to family issues, relationship problems and isolation and loneliness.
The charity is asking people to send a Christmas gift to help Samaritans continue to be there for those who need emotional support. Making a donation for as little as £4.99 will help Samaritans answer a call for help from somebody struggling this Christmas - and change someone’s story for the better.
Sophie, 26 from Littlehampton in Sussex, knows how hard the festive build up can be. After going through a marital breakup in the months leading up to Christmas she was also struggling with severe depression. Samaritans was there to support her as her marriage reached breaking point.
She said: “Last year was a real struggle for me with my mental health, which led to the cracks in my marriage, usually I’m like a big kid at Christmas, but I couldn't think of anything worse than playing the fake ‘happy’ charade.
“It made me feel even more depressed when all my family and friends were excited in the run up to the big day. The pressure of enjoying yourself and everything being perfect can make mental health issues a thousand times worse as you’re supposed to be bubbly and joyful. I didn’t want to ruin it for anyone else.
“The only people I could show my true feelings to, even the deep dark ones, was Samaritans. It was a relief to speak to someone that wasn’t expecting you to be jolly.
“Samaritans’ help gave me my life back and I will be forever thankful for that.”
Derby Samaritans volunteer Stephanie Taylor, from Ashbourne, will be volunteering through the late hours on Christmas Eve. This year will mark her fourth year as a listening volunteer.
Stephanie said, “In 2014 I got married again after many years on my own as a widow. Those were long, sometimes lonely years as I tried to cope with my loss and to find a life worth living again. I am not a woman of many talents but when I saw a Samaritans’ advertisement for volunteers, I wondered whether it was something I could do. By the end of 2015, I had completed my training and was a fully functioning, although not very confident, listening volunteer.
“In my local Samaritans branch I discovered a whole community of caring, supportive people. People who cared not only about our callers but about each other too. With their help and tolerance, I gradually found my feet as a listener and realised how vital it is to be there any time of the day or night for those who are in distress or despair.
“Although Christmas can be a time of celebration and family reunion, for many it is a time of year that is even more lonely or stressful than usual. That is why Samaritans’ volunteers give up their time to be there when no one else is. I will be answering the ‘phone on Christmas Eve and I hope that those few hours might just help someone to cope with their pain, whatever it might be. We can’t solve their problems, but we can show that we care and that could just make the difference.
“Making a donation will ensure we’re there for everyone who needs help. It’s a 24/7 service, and your gift will help pay for that and the training for volunteers like me.”
Be a part of someone’s story – send a gift to help them change it for the better by visiting: http://www.samaritans.org/christmas. Samaritans’ services are there for anyone who needs them this Christmas and every single day of the year. Follow the campaign on social media by searching for the hashtag, #bepartofthestory. Watch the Samaritans Christmas campaign video featuring Sophie here: http://www.samaritans.org/sophieandbob
*Christmas period refers to 1 December 2018 to 1 January 2019