Get real this Christmas, says Samaritans

Embargoed: 1 December 2016

Nearly half of people questioned in a poll for Samaritans said they hide their real feelings at Christmas to keep other people happy. The poll also showed that many more women feel they have to put on a brave face than men.*

The suicide prevention charity, Samaritans, is urging us all to stop striving for a perfect Christmas this year and have what it’s calling a #RealChristmas instead, because that could save lives.

As the UK gears up for the festive season, Samaritans is highlighting the reality that thousands of us will find it hard to have a happy Christmas. Health, family, work, relationships and money issues, or feelings of loneliness, isolation or uncertainty could be making life really tough.

2016 has been a year of change and challenge for everyone, and Samaritans says that’s something we need to get real about too. By giving the gift of listening and taking time to understand what’s really going on in our own and others’ lives, more people will open up this Christmas and ask for the support they need.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said:

“Difficult feelings don’t discriminate. They don’t care if it’s December or June. We know that one in five adults has felt suicidal – it’s not that uncommon and can happen to absolutely anyone.** On average, more than 500 people take their own lives in the UK every month and every death from suicide is a devastating tragedy.*** So, away from the idyllic images and all the hype around the season’s celebrations, let’s get real about how we can save lives, not just at Christmas but all year round. And that’s by listening to how a person who may be having a tough time really thinks and feels.”

To help people listen, Samaritans has produced a set of vouchers that can be given as Christmas presents on their own, or along with staples like chocolates, bubble bath, cufflinks or socks. Each voucher can be personalised and entitles the person receiving it to some one-to-one listening time from the giver. It could be over a coffee, while going for a walk or as part of a night in with a mate watching a box set. The vouchers are available to download for free at

Alongside the vouchers, Samaritans have produced a free guide to having a #RealChristmas which gives tips on how to be a good listener, what to do when someone doesn’t want to talk, and how to look after yourself as well as supporting others this Christmas.

Keith King has been a Samaritans volunteer for 8 years and will be on the phones over Christmas:

“Samaritans isn’t saying don’t have a good Christmas this year, but try to put aside the demands of the season and focus on the support you may need or can give. If you can, spend time listening to somebody who needs it. And if you’re the one who’s struggling or feeling overwhelmed, remember you can always speak to someone by calling Samaritans on 116 123. If talking on the phone is tricky, you can email, text or write to Samaritans too. Find out more on our website at We are always there. Even at Christmas.”

Samaritans is also encouraging donations of £4.26, another way to give the gift of listening as that’s the cost to the charity of taking a life-saving call.**** Find out more about Samaritans’ #RealChristmas campaign at For further information, please contact or 020 8394 8300.

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Notes to editors:

  • Samaritans responds to more than 5.7 million calls for help every year.
  • #RealChristmas is telling you it’s okay to say you’re not having a merry Christmas. You can call Samaritans on 116 123 anytime, give £4.26 so that we can answer the phone to people who really need it, share your stories of #RealChristmas on social media and give your family and friends the gift of listening this Christmas
  • Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email, or find details of your nearest branch.
  • It’s the public’s kind donations and more than 20,000 trained volunteers that mean Samaritans is always there for anyone struggling to cope. Find out how you can support us:

* Online poll carried out between 17/11/16 to 19/11/16 on behalf of Samaritans by D-Coded Insights Ltd; 1160 respondents (58% women, 42% men) aged 16-70+ in the UK.)

**Source: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014 [NS]

*** Source: Office of National Statistics – Suicides in the United Kingdom: 2014 Registrations

**** £4.26 is based on the cost per call to Samaritans of recruiting, training and supporting more than 20.000 volunteers, promoting and running our phone, email, text and letter services and keeping open our 201 branches across the UK and Ireland, allowing us to provide emotional support in education, workplaces, prisons and to work across communities to reduce suicide.