'That phone call changed my life' - charity urges people who are struggling to seek help this Christmas

  • Watch Ben McGrail's report

The charity Samaritans has warned Christmas could be particularly tough for many people this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It says separation from family and loved ones is one of the biggest concerns facing its callers.

Last Christmas Samaritans responded to more than a quarter of a million calls for help - with more than 10,000 of those on Christmas Day alone.

Ways to contact Samaritans:

Jason, 50, felt his whole world had fallen apart one Christmas. After struggling with his mum’s death, breaking up with the mother of his son and the loss of his job, it all became too much.

That phone call changed my life and put me on a new path.

Jason, Samaritans caller

Jason said: “The hardship faced by people trying to cope with the pandemic reminds me how overwhelming everything became for me at Christmas, to the point that I didn’t feel or see that there was a benefit to being here. Thankfully my ex-wife noticed my struggles and convinced me to pick up the phone to Samaritans.

“Although it was one of the hardest things I have done, that phone call changed my life and put me on a new path. I had completely lost my way in life before the call. Samaritans gave me hope and helped me to find my purpose again. For me, it was the smallest thing with the greatest outcome.

“Our own self-care this Christmas and beyond is so important. Take each day as it comes,have strength to reach out for support in times of need; for me that would be the best gift anyone could give themselves.”

Branches of Samaritans across the country are preparing for this Christmas being a struggle for many.

Felix is a listening volunteer in Taunton. He said: "The usual themes of unhappiness, to the point of getting to crisis, are always there but I think they’re heightened during the pandemic because everything seems that much worse when you are forced into a situation where you’re alone.

Volunteers at the Taunton branch of Samaritans will be taking calls throughout the Christmas period Credit: ITV News West Country

"We’re a little bit like a life jacket. Call us, as a life jacket, rather than waiting until you get to crisis point when you have to call for the lifeboat. But if you get to crisis then call us then as well because that’s why we’re here."

Fundraising has been challenging for Samaritans because of the coronavirus pandemic Credit: ITV News West Country

It costs around £40,000 annually to run the Taunton branch. With fundraising chances decimated this year, volunteers like Wendy have been doing their bit. She’s been making masks for sale.

Wendy said: "One thing with Samaritans that is particularly important is that we’re all aware of the impact this is having on mental health and on loneliness.

"If we can raise enough money to keep ourselves going then this is a small contribution towards it. It’s a difficult time for everybody."

As the end of this most difficult of years approaches, the charity is encouraging people to look out for anyone who may be feeling lonely or isolated.

  • Watch the Samaritans Christmas campaign video

Samaritans CEO Julie Bentley said: “It has been an unprecedented year with the pandemic affecting so many people’s health and wellbeing. It would be a tragedy if we weren’t there for those in distress.

“We know that people struggle more at Christmas, as it’s a time when loneliness can really hit home. Regardless of what happens with Covid restrictions, we want people to know that confidential support is available 24/7, and that we are there for everyone.”

Taunton volunteer Felix said: "I think it was Stephen Hawking who said: ‘The more I talk to people about a problem that I have, the more I understand it’ and the fact that people can do that I think shows them to be hugely brave.

"I think callers to Samaritans are incredibly brave."

Ways to contact Samaritans:

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