Samaritans volunteers set to listen for a hundred thousand hours this Christmas

Mental health, family, isolation and loneliness expected to be top concerns

Samaritans volunteers will be on hand for a staggering 123,000 hours over the festive season to listen to anyone having a tough time.*

More than 11,000 volunteers across the UK and Ireland will be working shifts for the charity to ensure its helpline is open round the clock, even on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Mental health, family issues, isolation and loneliness are expected to be the top concerns. Relationship problems, physical health, violence, abuse and bereavement are likely to feature too, as well as drug and alcohol misuse.**

At the same time, Samaritans is encouraging us all to give the gift of listening by telling friends and family it’s ok to open up if something is troubling you. To make it easy, the charity has produced a set of vouchers that you can download from its website to give as presents, offering yourself as a listening ear. You can invite someone to confide in you over a coffee, while out on a walk, or in whatever way you feel they will be most comfortable with. Socks won’t save a life, but listening can.

Judith called Samaritans when she had a difficult Christmas: “I was so unhappy and it spilled over into my family life. Having a Samaritan to talk to when I felt overwhelmed by my feelings was an important release for me. It was a way of managing life at a very stressful time.”

Samaritans was also there for Michael: “There is an expectation across society that Christmas is a great time of the year, everyone should be having fun. And I was trying, but I just couldn’t. All I wanted to do was hide under a duvet and cry. It was awful. With Samaritans, there was this realisation that you could phone them, and they wouldn’t judge you. They would let you express what you were going though and help you realise that it was ok to be having a bad time, even at Christmas.”

Samaritans’ volunteer Rosie Campbell has been on shift on Christmas Day: “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, for whatever reason, it can be a lot worse for you on a day when it feels like everyone else is celebrating. I’m lucky that my Christmas is filled with people and good things. Breaking with tradition and being there on Christmas Day for others is a real privilege.”

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland says: “If you’re dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings, the festive season can make everything seem worse. Whether you’re on your own or feeling alone in a crowd, we don’t want anyone to struggle. So, remember you can call Samaritans for free from any phone and, if you’re expecting to have a good Christmas this year yourself, have a think about those around you who may not be as lucky and give them the gift of listening.”

You can download Samaritans’ Give The Gift of Listening vouchers for free at You can also give the gift of listening with a donation to help ensure that Samaritans’ services are there for anyone who needs them this Christmas and every single day of the year.

Find out more about Samaritans’ Christmas campaign at Help us spread the word on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, #GiveTheGift.

For further information, photos, interviews and case study requests, please contact or 020 8394 8300.

Photo Caption(s)

1. Samaritans volunteers like Rosie Campbell will give thousands of hours to listen to anyone struggling to cope this Christmas. Photo credit © Phillip Job.

2. Samaritans’ vouchers mean anyone can give the gift of listening

More photos  are available of a wide variety of listeners and #GiveTheGift of listening vouchers.

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Notes to editors:

  • Anyone can contact Samaritans any time for free from any phone on 116 123. This number is free to call and will not show up on your phone bill. Or email or go to to find details of your local branch where you can talk to one of our trained volunteers face to face.
  • 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:
  • *Based on the number of volunteers on duty between 18 December 2016 and 1 January 2017. Source: Samaritans Contact Systems Data.
  • **Samaritans responds to more than 5.7 million calls for help every year and expects to respond to around 10,000 calls on Christmas day alone. Caller concerns by frequency are based on data collected between 26 April 2016 and 31 March 2017 from more than 1.86 million calls. Source: Samaritans Contact Systems Data.