Samaritans will mark the Longest Night of the year to remind those struggling to cope that its helpline is open during their darkest hours this Christmas.
Volunteers answered almost 35,000 calls to Samaritans 24-hour freephone number (116 123) last December, including 1,120 on Christmas Day alone.
The mental health charity is asking landmarks and public buildings across the country to light up in green to mark the Longest Night on the Winter Solstice on Wednesday, December 21st, to show people Samaritans are here for them during the long dark nights.
Up to 100 sites are expected to support the campaign, including The Department of Health, The Rock of Cashel, Bunratty Castle, Slane Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Cork City Hall, and county council offices across the county.
Nuala Dalton, a volunteer with Galway Samaritans, said it is a privilege to be on the helpline for others on Christmas Day.
“I love being on the helpline. The demand for the service doesn’t change just because of the holidays. People who are struggling on a normal day are still struggling, no matter what day of the week it is, and that’s why I do it,” she said.
“Christmas can also bring up a lot of issues for people. We have the perception everything should be perfect on Christmas Day, and it may not perfect inside your head.
“We get callers grateful that you’re there, callers whose normal support services are closed, some who are recently bereaved, callers who are very lonely, and other callers who are alone and delighted to be on their own because of family dynamics."
“It’s a real privilege to go into a branch and sit there and take a call, particularly on Christmas Day. That someone trusts you enough to pick up the phone if they ring.”
Nuala, Samaritans volunteer
Mental health concerns, loneliness and isolation, family, and relationships issues were the main concerns raised by callers during December 2021.
Nuala will be among approximately 300 volunteers in 13 Samaritans branches who will give up their time for others over the Christmas weekend.
“I urge anyone who is feeling pressure this Christmas to check in on themselves and pick up the phone and ring somebody if they need to talk, whether it’s a friend, a family member or an organisation like Samaritans on freephone 116 123,” Nuala added.
“Reach out to somebody if you’re struggling, because there’s always somebody there who will listen to you and be there for you.”
Samaritans is the only all island 24-hour emotional support freephone helpline, with volunteers answering almost half a million calls a year. Anyone interested in volunteering with Samaritans in the new year can visit www.samaritans.ie/volunteer.
Samaritans is calling on everyone to support the Longest Night campaign on the winter solstice by lighting up a public building or space in green, or lighting a candle in their window, to show people we’re there for them during their darkest hours.
Images can be shared on social media tagging Samaritans Ireland on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, using the hashtags #SamaritansLongestNight and #LongestNight.
Mark Kennedy, Assistant Director of Samaritans Ireland, said: “We really want to thank anyone who is supporting Samaritans’ Longest Night campaign to help spread the message that we’re there for everyone during the long dark winter nights.
“It is vital we reach as many people as possible during the festive season, so they know they are never alone.
“Any business who would like to light up in green and find us on Twitter or LinkedIn or contact us at [email protected]”