Almost 35,000 calls were made to Samaritans last December 1 month ago

Almost 35,000 calls were made to Samaritans last December

Feelings of isolation and loneliness rise over the Christmas period.

Almost 35,000 calls were answered by Samaritans' volunteers last December, as increasing numbers of people reported feeling lonely.

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Concerns over loneliness and isolation were cited by 38% of emotional support contacts over the festive season, followed by mental health/illness, family issues and Covid-19.

Michael Keelan, a former caller to Samaritans who is now a volunteer, is asking the public to "be a Samaritans Christmas star" this year by making a donation and helping Samaritans volunteers be there for others during their darkest hours.

"Since being a caller, I know how important it is to answer that phone when it rings," he said. "I remember how I felt at that time, and I want to be able to remind our callers that they are not alone.

“It can be extra difficult for people to cope with their emotions and feelings when seeing others around you are seemingly enjoying the festivities."

Figures revealed that over 3,200 calls and emails were answered by volunteers in 2020 on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day.

“Christmas is a time of giving so, as a Samaritan, it is extra special to give your time to those who cannot cope well with the season," Michael added. "There is something special about setting aside a few hours and giving them to someone who is finding it difficult.

“Helping someone through a tough situation and helping ease their worries is a humbling experience.”

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Michael will be on duty over Christmas and wants to remind callers support is available for them throughout the festive season.

The charity is also calling for landmarks and buildings across Ireland to light up green 21 December - known as the Samaritans Longest Night.

"The Winter Solstice is the Longest Night of the year and we mark it by reminding our callers, we’re there for them during their darkest hours, especially over Christmas," said Niall Mulligan, executive director of Samaritans Ireland.

“Last year several landmarks illuminated including Dublin Airport Control Tower, The Rock of Cashel, Blackrock Castle, Enniskillen Castle, universities, colleges, and city and county council offices.

“While many look forward to the Christmas period, at Samaritans we know this time of year can actually be a huge challenge for some people, and our amazing volunteers will be giving their time to anyone who needs support.”

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