You are not alone this Christmas is the message from Samaritans Galway

Almost half a million people called the Samaritans service in Ireland last year with the number of callers to the Galway phoneline reaching an all time high.

The Samaritans is a volunteer-ledorganisation, which provides confidential, non- judgmental emotional support, 24 hours a day, for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide. Figures released in the charity’s annual report show more people than ever are struggling to cope.

The issues which people contact Samaritans about have remained consistent over the past number of years. These include family and relationship problems; financial worries; depression and mental health problems; loneliness; and stress and anxiety.

According to the report, more than 478,200 calls to the helpline, almost 12,000 emails, and some 8,000 texts were answered by Samaritans volunteers. There were also just under 8,700 face to face visits to Samaritans branches across the Republic

The organisation previously operated a low- call 1850 number but a deal negotiated with the telecommunications industry, the Government, and the National Office for Suicide Prevention now enables people to get in touch for free on 116 123. The charity experienced a 52 per cent increase in calls since the switch in March.

Director of Samaritans Galway, William Browne, says the major increase in callers shows there is clearly a huge demand for the service. “We are aware from the nature of our calls that many people in Ireland are struggling to cope. It is now easier for people to call us and we have seen a significant increase in contact as result. Our volunteers are busier than ever and have increased the amount of listening hours they provide by over 38 per cent since the number was launched.”

Mr Browne says it is important that people know they can talk to the Samaritans about any issue which is getting them down. “Some people think that you have to be suicidal to talk to Samaritans but that is not the case. We are here for anyone who needs to talk. It doesn’t matter what kind of problem our callers have, however big or small it may seem compared to the problems other people have. What matters to us is how their life is making them feel.’’

Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. The festive season for many people is a time of celebration and joy but for others can be a dark and lonely period.

William Browne says Samaritans volunteers are available to talk all throughout Christmas. “Many of our callers have told us that Christmas is a tough time for them. We want to get the message out, that we are there for anyone who is struggling to cope, including on Christmas Day. We’re incredibly grateful to the inspirational people who keep our service running every single day of the year when many others are closed.”

Samaritans’ 24-hour helpline number is 116 123. Samaritans, 14 Nuns Island, Galway. 091 561 222

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