By Cate McCurry, PA
Samaritans’ volunteers answered almost 35,000 calls last December as more people reported feeling lonely and isolated.
Concerns over loneliness and isolation increased and were cited by 38 per cent of emotional support contacts over the festive season, compared with 33 per cent in December 2019, followed by mental health/illness, family issues and Covid-19.
Michael Keelan, a former caller to Samaritans who is now a volunteer in Samaritans’ Drogheda branch, is asking the public to ‘Be A Samaritans Christmas Star’ this December 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,” Mr Keelan 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.”
Samaritans is the only all island 24-hour emotional support freephone helpline, answering over half a million calls a year.
Figures show more than 3,200 calls and emails were answered by volunteers over 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. There is something special about setting aside a few hours and giving them to someone who is finding it difficult,” Michael said.
“Helping someone through a tough situation and helping ease their worries is a humbling experience.”
Niall Mulligan, executive director for Samaritans Ireland, said supporting Samaritans this Christmas will help bring light to someone on their darkest day.
The charity is also calling on landmarks and buildings across the country to light up in green on Tuesday, December 21st, for Samaritans’ Longest Night.
Mr Mulligan said: “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.
“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.”
To help Samaritans listening volunteers be there for people in their darkest times, please visit www.samaritans.ie/christmasappeal
The public can call Samaritans throughout the festive season on freephone 116 123 or email [email protected]