Belfast Telegraph

Samaritans stand by for Christmas callers
Busy periods over festive holiday

By Marie Foy
18 December 2004

The Samaritans in Northern Ireland expect to receive around 13,000 calls in the four weeks around Christmas and the New Year.

That is a rise of 8 to 10% on the usual number of people in emotional distress who contact the charity for support.

The busiest periods are expected to be from December 20 to 24 and again from January 2.

Around 650 volunteers are on standby to help.

Last year the charity dealt with a total of 151,000 phone calls, e-mails, letters and people coming into their eight branches across the province.

Publicity officer Paul O'Hare said that traditionally the numbers of people seeking support increased significantly around this time of year.

"There are certain things that the Samaritans have found are particular to this time of year.

"Surprisingly the calls don't all come on Christmas Day. December 20 to 24 will be busy and the maximum number of lines will be switched on.

"New Year's Eve and Day will be quiet and from January 2 onwards we expect the phones to light up," he revealed.

"People call Samaritans at Christmas for the same reasons as during the year - about 60% of calls can be linked to close personal relationship issues.

"There are stresses that might be more prevalent at Christmas and New Year - such as the pressure to have a good time. Loneliness does factor in some calls, but its not an overriding issue. Isolation is different to loneliness. Financial strain is something that people talk about when they call, but financial strain happens all year round too," he continued.

"Because Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, people can experience crisis if they don't have a good time. Family stresses can be exacerbated when people who don't normally see each other spend time together and if someone has died or a relationship ends, Christmas can be thought of as a time of dread for those having to deal with it.

"Many people also get a sense of anticlimax and 'back to reality' after the celebrations and find their problems haven't changed."

Mr O'Hare said people of all ages used the organisation, and more young people seemed to be contacting them than in previous years.

"But given the level of emotional crisis among young people, volunteers say they are still not hearing from enough," he added.

"Over the holiday, people should keep the lines of contact open and talk about their emotions with people they trust."

The Samaritans 24-hour helpline is 08457 909090 and its website www.samaritans.org.

If you or anyone else is in crisis and would like to talk confidentially to a volunteer call 08457 909090 or email jo@samaritans.org

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