Struggling at Christmas? Samaritans can help
When Stephanie looks at the photographs from Christmas 2015 she was smiling - but she was far from happy.
That Christmas Eve things had all got too much and she tried to take her life.
“I woke up the next day feeling very unwell, but I got dressed and went to visit my family for Christmas,” said Stephanie, 33. “I became good at putting on a front.”
Stephanie, a celebrity manicurist to the stars, who works with Little Mix, Leona Lewis and Disney, continued: “I look back at the pictures and I’m smiling, but I wasn’t ok at all. That feeling built up and spilled over into the new year.
“I didn’t know who to speak to, so one night I called Samaritans and let everything out. I remember feeling embarrassed and it took me a long time to get everything out.
“I am so thankful to that volunteer. He saved my life that night. I realised I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore.”
Need help at Christmas? You are not alone
Stephanie was not alone; Samaritans expects more than 250,000 calls for help during the festive season.
For many it can be a time of despair - triggered by various factors.
New figures from Samaritans reveal that caller concerns about family have risen for the fifth year in a row.
Up until November this year, family worries have made up 34 per cent of emotional support contacts with the charity across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Mental health/illness is holding steady as the top overall concern, with isolation and loneliness ranking third, followed by relationship problems.
The charity’s Christmas campaign seeks to ensure listening volunteers are on-hand to respond to people calling for help.
Ian, who works as a documentary producer, knew there was a place he could turn to when everywhere else was closed.
“There was a Christmas a long time ago where I felt quite down during that period,” said Ian, 55. “My partner at the time wasn’t openly out to his family and wanted to go home, meaning I spent Christmas alone.
“On Christmas Eve, I was extremely low. I rang Samaritans and that phone call got me through what was a very dark time.
“Christmas is such an emotive time – families, being together… and there I was on my own. The call was so helpful for me in that moment and during the festive period.
“Then, in 2009, there was a day where everything got on top of me. I was feeling suicidal. I was working in the centre of London and there is a Samaritans branch there, I went there on my way home. I knew Samaritans was a non-judgemental space.
“At a time where I didn’t feel like I could even talk to my partner – I needed someone I didn’t know to just sit and let me feel vulnerable and Samaritans were there.
"The whole point of Samaritans is – there is no shame.”
“To anyone who is struggling, I would say you have to let go of the idea of shame," said Ian.
"Shame can be a huge barrier; thoughts of ‘I’m ashamed of myself/let myself down, I’m ashamed to tell someone I feel this way, I’m afraid to tell someone I’m not coping’...
"Shame is the absolute enemy in the face of mental struggle and difficulty. The whole point of Samaritans is – there is no shame.”
This year, Anne is facing the first festive season since her mother died after being admitted to hospital on Christmas Day, and expects it to be challenging.
“I’m not a huge fan of the pressure the festive season puts on everyone to be perfect — be that the perfect chef, have the perfect family, or to provide the perfect gifts,” said Anne.
“It’s a pressure I hear about in calls during the festive period. During volunteer shifts, I hear from people who are struggling with the pressure to be constantly happy and cheerful when deep inside they are feeling stressed and anxious.”
Anne has some ideas for when she is feeling low that help her to feel better.
“If things are in danger of getting on top of me over the Christmas season, or in the dark cold days of winter, I try to keep busy and plan little treats for every day,” said Anne.
“Planting bulbs to brighten up the spring, taking 20 minutes to enjoy a really special cup of coffee, getting out for a walk whatever the weather - a combination of distractions and rewards to make it through what can be a stressful and exhausting month.”
How to contact Samaritans
Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can email [email protected] or visit http://www.samaritans.org .
Julie Bentley, Samaritans’ CEO, said: “Whilst many look forward to the Christmas period, at Samaritans we know this time of year can actually be a huge challenge for some people.
“So, for anyone who is struggling this Christmas time, Samaritans is here for them, forfree, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Be a Samaritans Christmas Star
You can ‘Be a Samaritans Christmas Star’ this season by making a donation or helping Samaritans volunteers be there for others by fundraising for the charity.
Supporting Samaritans will help bring light to someone on their darkest day, ensuring trained volunteers are there to respond to calls at a time of year when Samaritans is a lifeline to those who are struggling to cope.
Making a donation for as little as £5 will help Samaritans keep its helpline running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Please visit http://samaritans.org/donate-christmas
Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit.