Samaritans tells callers we’re here for you this Christmas
Being separated from family and loved ones over the Christmas period is one of the biggest concerns facing callers to Samaritans, the charity has revealed.
Volunteers on the 24-hour helpline say almost a third of callers are feeling concerned about their wellbeing over Christmas, with the majority of those worried about being separated from family and loved ones, and coping with being lonely during Christmas or having to spend Christmas alone.
Samaritans surveyed 1,400 of its own volunteers in Ireland and the UK to see how callers to the helpline have been feeling about the festive season.
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, wants to remind the public that Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, including Christmas Day, for anyone who is distressed, lonely or suffering.
Samaritans volunteers in the Republic of Ireland answered almost 40,000 calls in December 2019. More than 50 volunteers answered over 1,150 calls and written contacts on Christmas Day alone.
“It has been an unprecedented year with the pandemic affecting so many people’s health and wellbeing and this will be a very different Christmas for many people,” Mr Mulligan said.
“Some may not be able to visit family or friends, others may have family oversees who cannot travel home, and for others missing normal events, like Christmas Mass or socialising in the local pub, can be devastating."
“We know that people struggle more at Christmas, as it’s a time when loneliness can really hit home. We want people to know that we are available 24/7 for everyone on freephone 116 123 or email [email protected]”
Among the volunteers on duty this Christmas Day will be Bernie Keane and her brother Thomas Carbery, who will be on duty together in Samaritans Waterford branch.
Bernie said it’s “no sacrifice” to volunteer on Christmas night as she loves being there for others when they need someone to talk to.
“I find it very rewarding to volunteer on Christmas Day,” said Bernie, who joined Samaritans 12 years ago.
“A lot of places close for Christmas, like care and day centres, and there are very lonely people, some with mental health issues, who may not see anyone for the whole of Christmas. Giving them 15 minutes just to talk to someone can make a difference.
“They may not be suicidal, but they’re so lonely. Other callers may have had a fall out with family members or other issues may surface like bereavement.”
Thomas joined Samaritans five years ago when he retired as a sergeant in the Irish Defence Forces.
“It can be hard sometimes on a particular call, but at the end of that call when someone says thank you for being there it feels good. You can’t get that feeling anywhere else,” he said.
“It's nice to be there at Christmas when people need you and when they do not have anyone else to chat to. You could be the only person they talk to all day. It’s a good feeling to know you have been there for that person. It’s definitely been hard for people this year.”
Samaritans will also mark the Longest Night of the year – the Winter Solstice on Monday December 21st – by asking landmarks across the country to illuminate in green to remind people we’re there for them in their darkest hours. Dublin’s Convention Centre, The Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle, Millmount in Drogheda and Limerick County Council offices are among those taking part to raise awareness of our service.
Images will be shared across social media channels with the hashtags #LongestNight #AlwaysThere.
For information or to arrange an interview please contact Sarah Stack, Communications & Policy Manager, Samaritans Ireland, on: [email protected] or mobile 085 860 5554.
Notes to editor
- Photo caption: Samaritans volunteers – brother and sister Thomas Carbery and Bernie Keane – who will be on duty together on Christmas Night. Credit: John Power Photography.
- Samaritans’ Longest Night will be held on Monday. December 21st with landmarks across the country illuminating in green to remind people we’re there for them in their darkest hours. Images will be shared across social media channels with the hashtags #LongestNight #AlwaysThere.
- Samaritans volunteer insights survey was carried out in October 2020.
- A total of 1,439 volunteers responded to the survey, including 100 in Ireland.
- 395 volunteers (out of 1,439 participants) stated they had talked to callers concerned about Christmas or the winter period over the past 3 months (27% of survey respondents). This is based on coding of open text answers to the question: “What concerns, if any, have callers raised specifically about their wellbeing over Christmas and the winter period?”
- Among these callers, a sense of bleakness, unease and uncertainty about what the changing restrictions will mean for how they will spend Christmas was an overarching theme.
- Four main themes emerged including family, loneliness, impact of the cold weather and short days and financial worries.
- Other common concerns included people worrying about the wellbeing of loved ones who are already feeling lonely during Covid-19 restrictions, the impact of the colder weather and shorter days, and financial worries, with many questioning if they will be able to pay bills and buy presents.
- Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can email [email protected] or visit samaritans.ie.
Donations can be made to Samaritans in Ireland via the donate link at samaritans.ie