Lonely this Christmas? Help is just a call or click away...

Samaritans Christmas Tree
Samaritans Christmas Tree

It’ll be lonely this Christmas may be a well known festive hit but for many the tune will also, sadly, ring true.

Feelings are somehow always heightened so for those who are alone or grieving it can be the most difficult time of year.

Indeed, Samaritans has just released figures showing the extent people feel loneliness and isolation.

Almost a quarter (23.6%) of those surveyed said they believed problems felt worse at Christmas and one in six (17.3%) described it as the loneliest time of year.

The survey, of all ages, also revealed that 1 in 15 (6.8%) had often spent Christmas alone.

And 1 in 25 (3.8%) of those questioned said they were with friends and family but really spent it alone.

Samaritans UK responded to nearly 200,000 calls for help over the festive period last year.

There has been an increase in demand for services year round, with Samaritans UK-wide responding to more than 5.3 million calls last year – 240,000 in Scotland.

James Jopling, Samaritans executive director in Scotland, said: “For many the holiday period can be a thoroughly enjoyable time.

“But, sadly, for a startling number of people this is not always the case.

“This time of year can bring up painful memories, or worsen difficult feelings often related to family or relationship issues, financial or health worries.

“The pressure to be having a good time can be too much.

“Even with friends and family around, that sense of being alone with difficult thoughts or feelings can make it seem as if you have no one to turn to.

“The important thing to remember is that no one needs to feel alone this Christmas.

“Samaritans volunteers are there to listen round the clock, every day of the year.

“We’re there to listen, provide emotional support and help people find a way through whatever’s getting to them.”

Christine, from Lanarkshire, is one of Samaritans’ 1000 volunteers in Scotland.

She said: “Past difficulties such as bereavement or relationship breakdown can be brought into even sharper focus when it seems like everyone else is having fun.

“I’d urge anyone who is feeling alone to phone Samaritans for support.”

Samaritans relies almost entirely on donations to run its 20 Scottish branches and train more than 1000 dedicated volunteers.

To find out how you could help, visit www.samaritans.org/christmas.

If you need help this festive season, call 116 123 (it’s FREE and will not appear on your phone bill) or email jo@samaritans.org.

Those trying to put on a face at Christmas may find their physical and mental health suffers as a result.

And if you’re trying to cope with grief, this time of jolly merriment may also make it harder to cope.

But Breathing Space – Scotland’s mental health phone line – is just a call away.

National co-ordinator Tony McLaren said: “Taking care of your own and your family’s health is about emotional as well as physical wellbeing.

“Christmas can be stressful for people and those who have experienced the loss of a close relative or friend can find it particularly difficult.

“Everyone experiences grief differently but if you are struggling to cope, it’s affecting your eating or sleeping patterns or if you have feelings of guilt or anger then the NHS inform Bereavement Zone may be able to help.

“It is online and is totally anonymous.

“Stress and grief can manifest themselves in many different ways, including mental distress and regret as well as physical symptoms like exhaustion, decreased appetite and insomnia.

“Stay occupied, get out in the fresh air if possible and, most importantly, speak to other people.

“If you can, talk to a friend or relative. If your feelings persist or you would prefer to leave family members out of it, you can talk to a trained advisor by calling Breathing Space on 0800 838587.”

For more information visit www.nhsinform.co.uk/bereavement or if you are feeling down visit www.breathingspace.scot.

Silver Line Scotland – the free, confidential 24/7 helpline for older people – is also expecting its phones to be buzzing this festive season.

The helpline operates 24 hours a day, 365-days-a-year.

It already receives more than 120 calls a day from lonely older people in Scotland – around five calls every hour.

And it expects to handle more than twice that number over the festive period.

Founded by Dame Esther Rantzen, it offers friendship and advice to older people.

Silver Line Scotland works in partnership with Age Scotland to deliver the service.

It already has over 100 volunteers who provide friendship calls and letters to isolated older people – but still needs more help.

Moira Gallagher, Silver Line Scotland’s manager, said: “Our callers are among the hardest to reach – those who are confined to their homes or are caring for another.

“For these people, the phone can be a lifeline.

“Isolation and loneliness are especially an issue for older people living in rural or island communities.

“Our Silver Circles and Silver Letters help them find people with similar interests.

“But we know there are thousands of people that we haven’t yet reached. That’s why we are asking more Scots to volunteer their time or spread the word.”

Silver Line Scotland has received over 680,000 calls since its launch in November 2013 and has just experienced its busiest day – with more than 1500 calls in one day.

CEO Sophie Andrews said: “On Christmas Day, many older people will be getting a call from their Silver Line Friend and, for the vast majority, it will be the only person they speak to that day.”

To find out more visit www.thesilverline.org.uk or call the Silver Line Scotland helpline on 0800 4 70 8090.

n Samaritans Christmas survey was conducted online from May 27 to June 2 2015 with a sample of 1600 adults.