As tinsel and fairy lights adorn the streets up and down the country, it can be easy to overlook how the festive season can be the hardest time of the year for some.
But volunteers at Samaritans Scotland branches across the country are working throughout the festive season to make sure there’s someone there to listen for anyone who is struggling.
Last Christmas, Samaritans – the only charity that is there for anyone struggling to cope 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – responded to more than 300,000 calls for help from across the UK & ROI.
The charity answered more than 10,000 calls from people struggling on Christmas Day alone.
On Christmas Eve 2018, while many were hanging up their stockings and getting ready for Santa’s arrival, almost 1650 dedicated Samaritans volunteers were reporting for duty at Samaritans branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
The very next day, more than 1475 Samaritans volunteers headed to branches and responded to thousands of calls for help from people feeling overwhelmed on December 25.
In Scotland, around 140 volunteers gave up their time between on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to be there to listen for anyone who was struggling to cope.
Each volunteer answered an average of 12 calls per Christmas shift, with callers sharing a wide range of personal challenges from mental and physical health struggles to family issues, relationship problems and isolation and loneliness.
Keith Walker, a volunteer with Samaritans, is among the volunteers there to listen this Christmas season.
He said: “We know life’s problems don’t melt away when we switch on the Christmas lights and for many people the festive season can be a difficult time.
“That’s why it’s so important to make sure there’s always someone there to listen on Christmas Day and throughout the season.
“For me, volunteering is an important part of my Christmas and helps me to put my own celebrations in context.
“With rates of suicide rising here in Scotland and across the UK, Samaritans has never been a more vital lifeline.
“If you are finding the festive season tough, you don’t have to face things alone.
“Every call for help to Samaritans is answered by a trained volunteer and talking to us is always free and confidential.
“So whatever is on your mind, you can talk to us this Christmas.”
Samaritans is asking people to send a Christmas gift to help Samaritans continue to be there for those who need emotional support.
Making a donation for as little as £4.99 will help Samaritans answer a call for help from somebody struggling this Christmas – and change someone’s story for the better.
Sophie (26) knows how hard the festive build up can be. After going through a marital breakup in the months leading up to Christmas she was struggling with severe depression.
Samaritans was there to support her as her marriage reached breaking point.
She said: “Usually I’m like a big kid at Christmas, but I couldn’t think of anything worse than playing the fake ‘happy’ charade.
“It made me feel even more depressed when all my family and friends were excited in the run up to the big day. The pressure of enjoying yourself and everything being perfect can make mental health issues a thousand times worse as you’re supposed to be bubbly and joyful.
“The only people I could show my true feelings to, even the deep dark ones, was Samaritans. It was a relief to speak to someone that wasn’t expecting you to be jolly.
“Samaritans’ help gave me my life back and I will be forever thankful for that.”
To support Samaritans’ Christmas appeal, go to Samaritans Support Us
Anyone who needs the support of Samaritans can call for free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123, even a mobile without credit.
Samaritans’ services are there for anyone who needs them this Christmas and every single day of the year.