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.
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.
Sophie, from Littlehampton in Sussex
Newly trained Samaritans volunteer Sue Peart, 60, will be volunteering for the first time this Christmas. Last Christmas was the end of a year that saw her leave her job as a successful national newspaper magazine editor and the passing of her mum.
I was struggling with the fact my career had come to an end and then I faced the grief of losing my mum. It set the seal on a terrible year- I call it my ‘year of the pancake’ - the year when everything ‘flipped’. I won’t forget how comforting it was to have Samaritans’ number by my bedside, just in case I needed to call in the middle of the night. I could never have predicted that I would become a volunteer for Samaritans. Having been through difficult times myself, I realised how important it was to be there for someone in need. It’s a time of year that can be a pressure-point for people, particularly if you’re going to be spending Christmas on your own, all the emphasis on happy families can make you feel even more alone. Personally, I know this Christmas will be tough for me as it will be one year since I lost my mum. With suicide rates on the rise, Samaritans has never been more of a lifeline. It would be a tragedy if Samaritans wasn’t able to be there for those in distress. 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.
Newly trained Samaritans volunteer Sue Peart
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
For more information and interviews, please contact [email protected] or 020 8394 8396. A full press pack, including images and video content is available here: https://www.samaritans.org/christmas-press-pack
Notes to editors
- Statistics source: Baker, N.J. Samaritans 2018/19 Contact Systems Data Analysis [Data file]. Unpublished.
- 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 www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch, where you can talk to one of our trained volunteers face to face.
- Every six seconds, Samaritans responds to a call for help
- Samaritans is a charity and it’s the public’s kind donations and more than 20,000 volunteers that mean we are always there for anyone struggling to cope. Find out how you can support us or volunteer with us.
- You can follow Samaritans on social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.