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One-third of Samaritans callers worried about not seeing family this Christmas

Samaritans is a 24-hour helpline and volunteers have said almost a third of all callers are feeling concerned about their wellbeing over Christmas.

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Bernie Keane and her brother Thomas Carbery will be on-call this Christmas today for the Samaritans Waterford branch

Bernie Keane and her brother Thomas Carbery will be on-call this Christmas today for the Samaritans Waterford branch

Bernie Keane and her brother Thomas Carbery will be on-call this Christmas today for the Samaritans Waterford branch

One of the main concerns of Samaritans callers is being separated from their family and feeling lonely over the Christmas period, a new survey has revealed.

Samaritans is a 24-hour helpline and volunteers have said almost a third of all callers are feeling concerned about their wellbeing over Christmas.

The charity surveyed 1,400 volunteers in Ireland and the UK and asked what the main concerns of their callers were this festive season.

Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland Niall Mulligan has reminded the public that anyone feeling distressed or lonely can call the helpline any hour of the day, including on Christmas day.

Samaritans volunteers in the Republic of Ireland answered almost 40,000 calls in December 2019 with more than 50 volunteers answering over 1,150 calls and written contacts on Christmas day alone.

Bernie Keane and her brother Thomas Carbery will be on-call this Christmas day for the Samaritans Waterford branch.

Ms Keane said it’s “no sacrifice” for her to volunteer on Christmas as she loves being there for people who need someone to talk to.

“I find it very rewarding to volunteer on Christmas Day,” said Bernie, who joined Samaritans 12 years ago.

“A lot of places close for Christmas, like care and day centres, and there are very lonely people, some with mental health issues, who may not see anyone for the whole of Christmas. Giving them 15 minutes just to talk to someone can make a difference.

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“They may not be suicidal, but they’re so lonely. Other callers may have had a fall out with family members or other issues may surface like bereavement.”

Mr Carbery joined Samaritans five years ago when he retired as a sergeant in the Irish Defence Forces.

“It can be hard sometimes on a particular call, but at the end of that call when someone says thank you for being there it feels good. You can’t get that feeling anywhere else,” he said.

“It's nice to be there at Christmas when people need you and when they do not have anyone else to chat to.

"You could be the only person they talk to all day. It’s a good feeling to know you have been there for that person. It’s definitely been hard for people this year.”

The charity is asking landmarks across the country to illuminate green on December 21, the longest night of the year, to remind the public of their services.

Dublin’s Convention Centre, The Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle, Millmount in Drogheda and Limerick County Council offices will all be taking part to raise awareness.

“It has been an unprecedented year with the pandemic affecting so many people’s health and wellbeing and this will be a very different Christmas for many people,” Executive Director Mr Mulligan said.

“Some may not be able to visit family or friends, others may have family oversees who cannot travel home, and for others missing normal events, like Christmas Mass or socialising in the local pub, can be devastating."

“We know that people struggle more at Christmas, as it’s a time when loneliness can really hit home. We want people to know that we are available 24/7 for everyone on freephone 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie.”



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