Feelings of loneliness and isolation rise at Christmas - Samaritans

Increase last December in number of people calling who reported feeling lonely

Michael Keelan, a former caller to Samaritans who is now a volunteer in Samaritans’ Drogheda branch. Photograph:  Paul Connor/Samaritans/PA Wire

Michael Keelan, a former caller to Samaritans who is now a volunteer in Samaritans’ Drogheda branch. Photograph: Paul Connor/Samaritans/PA Wire

 

People feel more lonely and isolated as Christmas gets closer, according to Samaritans.

The organisation’s volunteers answered almost 35,000 calls last December, an increase increase in the number of people saying they felt lonely and isolated when compared with the figures for 2019.

Some 38 per cent of emotional support contacts mentioned they were concerned about being lonely over the festive season in 2020, compared with 33 per cent in December 2019.

The next biggest concerns voiced by callers to the helpline related to mental health and illness, family issues and Covid-19.

Samaritans answers over half a million calls per year on average, and more than 3,200 calls and emails were answered by volunteers over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day last year.

The charity has now launched a new campaign called ‘Be A Samaritans Christmas Star’ in a bid to raise money for the service.

Michael Keelan, a former caller to Samaritans who is now a volunteer in the Drogheda Branch, is asking the public to make a donation to the charity so they can continue helping people in their time of need.

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

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

The charity is also calling for landmarks and buildings across the country to light up green on Tuesday 21st December, for Samaritans’ Longest Night.

Niall Mulligan, Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, said that the winter solstice is the longest night of the year, and Samaritans want to remind their callers that they 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 donate to the charity, visit samaritans.ie/christmasappeal.

Samaritans can be contacted 24/7 on freephone 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie