CHRISTMAS can be a very stressful and distressing time of the year for many.
The pressure to be happy or find cash for presents, the stress of being with difficult family members, the misery of painful memories or the courage to simply face it alone can be too much sometimes.
But no-one is alone.
If you face a challenging time there are plenty of services to turn to, including the well-established Samaritans helpline.
Tracey Fuller, a volunteer with the island branch of the charity, explained: ‘The people who call us come from all walks of life and can be any age but what they have in common is that they are experiencing feelings which they find difficult to cope with.
‘The issues they face can be anything, including stress, depression, bereavement, abuse, relationship breakdown, bullying, illness. It’s a long list. And Christmas can be a difficult time for people experiencing any of those things.’
She said: ‘Some of these issues, and the feelings they bring about, can be very difficult to talk about. Talking to a stranger can sometimes be easier than involving someone close to you, who may not be able to cope with the way you feel.
‘Samaritans offers a safe and completely confidential place to explore difficult feelings. Our volunteers are trained in listening. They won’t judge and they won’t offer advice, but they will listen and support you – whatever you’re going through.’
Tracey joined Samaritans in 1998 after responding to a recruitment advert in the newspaper. She said: ‘The ad caught my eye somehow. Having been through some difficult periods myself, it seemed important to give up some of my time to be there for others in difficulty with their lives. It still does.’
She explained: ‘The charity was founded in 1953 by Chad Varah. He felt that, if there was an emergency contact number for people thinking of taking their own lives, and they were able to talk about their suicidal feelings, fewer people would die by suicide.
‘This idea grew, from one phoneline in London to 201 branches throughout the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.’
The Manx branch opened in 1979 and currently manages about 70 volunteers. ‘Last year we had around 18,000 contacts,’ said Tracey, ‘mainly by phone, but also by email and through our regular visits to the prison. Of these, 12 per cent were with people who were actively suicidal.’
‘Samaritans has no affiliation to any religious organisation and we respect people’s right to take their own life,’ she added.
This month celebrated International Suicide Survivors Day (November 17) which raises awareness of those bereaved by suicide. ‘A death through suicide can have a profound and often damaging effect on those left behind,’ said Tracey.
She concluded: ‘If you’ve thought about calling Samaritans, but never felt able to – just give it a try. We won’t rush you.
‘You don’t have to speak if you don’t feel ready. But we are always there, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Just call 663399’
• Samaritans Isle of Man is run entirely by volunteers and they always need more either as a listener, a support volunteer, or help with publicity, fundraising and outreach activities. If you feel you have something to contribute, get in touch with the charity on 663399 or at firstname.lastname@example.org