Samaritans remind North East people they are here for them over Christmas

Volunteers from Tyneside Samaritans are reminding people that they are available 24/7 as usual over Christmas and New Year

Paul Norris Libby, branch director for the Samaritans in Jesmond
Libby, branch director for the Samaritans in Jesmond

As Christmas approaches, Tyneside Samaritans are reminding those who are struggling that volunteers will be available to listen.

Charity volunteers have said the festive season and New Year can turn into an extremely difficult time for a lot of people with financial pressures and missing loved ones leading to some struggling to cope.

But the Samaritans of Tyneside will be working 24 hours a day over the festive period to support those people who find the Christmas and New Year period harder than most.

Libby, director of Samaritans of Tyneside, said the great distress some people go through at this time can be in stark contrast to the joyful time everyone else appears to be having.

“There are a lot of people out there with financial and debt problems, for them Christmas can be very difficult,” she said.

“They may have families and children and may very much want to give them a great Christmas and if they cannot it’s even more difficult for them at Christmas.

“People who have lost their jobs or wages are very low, we hear a lot about people who have to use food banks, so for all those kinds of people Christmas is a very tough time,” she added.

Libby said the festive season is also a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones as it can bring back wonderful memories from previous years.

But Libby emphasised that not all the people they receive calls from talk about taking their own life.

“Not all people we talk to are suicidal, about 20% of people who ring do talk of suicide, the rest are people who just want to talk,” she said.

“We are a safe place for people to come to because they do not have to tell us who they are, it is confidential and we are open 24 hours, even over Christmas when others close down.

“We are a reliable, safe place and I would encourage people to talk.

“It is not a shameful to do, we do not present ourselves as being better than anyone else, anyone can have a need to talk to somebody.

“It is like talking to a good friend,” she said.

Libby also highlighted that Christmas and New Year can be more difficult for men.

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 4,000 men took their own lives in 2011, more than double the number of women. The most vulnerable group is middle aged men, who often were unemployed or had no partner. Samaritans research suggests that they often spoke of feeling lonely.

Libby added: “Another group of people that we often speak to at Christmas are those grappling with mental health problems. Their usual support services may be closed, and they can feel quite isolated.”

The charity celebrated its 60th birthday in November after being set up in 1953 by Chad Varah who vowed to stop the isolation and ignorance that would lead people to suicide.

Anyone who would like to volunteer or contact the Samaritans for help should call 0191 2327272 or 08457 909090. All calls are at local rates, but volunteers will call people back if cost is an issue. The email is jo@samaritans.org and text number is 07725 909090.

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