Photo ©Abbie Trayler-Smith

Content warning: this article mentions suicide.

This years Christmas campaign is paired with new research and stats by Samaritans that reveal family members calling up with concerns about family have risen for the fifth year in a row

The suicide prevention charity has found that throughout 2021, ‘family worries have made up 34% of emotional support contacts with the charity across the UK and Republic of Ireland’ which is a 26% increase over the past five years.

In 2020 Samaritans volunteers spent over one million hours responding to calls for help.

Samaritans also found that concerns around mental-ill health were the top concern at 46% of respondents stating it as a reason for contacting them for support, while isolation and loneliness ranked just below at 28% and then relationship problems at 24%.

Samaritans are set to respond to more than 250,000 calls over the festive season

A previous caller to Samaritans, Stephanie, 33 from Kent, has been chosen as the face of the campaign. She called the charity just after Christmas in 2015 when she was in crisis and continued to phone them regularly. In the statement by Samaritans, Stephanie spoke about her experience:

“Christmas always felt like a particularly difficult time. One year on Christmas Eve, it all got too much and I tried to take my life. I woke up the next day feeling very unwell, but I got dressed and went to visit my family for Christmas. I became good at putting on a front.”

Stephanie has a busy life, working as a celebrity manicurist. She has worked with the likes of Little Mix, Leona Lewis and Disney. Speaking on that time she comments on just how good she had gotten at hiding how unwell she was: “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.”

Stephanie and Samaritans are hoping their ‘Be A Samaritans Christmas Star’ campaign might encourage people to donate or fundraise for the charity at this time of year where extra support is needed.

The Samaritans CEO, Julie Bentley spoke on the campaign and the message behind it saying: "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.”

“Our amazing volunteers will, as they do every hour of every day, be giving their time this Christmas to anyone who needs support. I think that is a pretty special gift to give. I’m so proud of the work Samaritans does, and I know what a huge difference the service makes to people’s lives. So, for anyone who is struggling this Christmas time, Samaritans is here for them, for free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

You can watch Stephanie’s story here, and find out more about the campaign here.

If you need support, Samaritans have a helpline open 24/7 for FREE on 116 123. You can also email them or write to them, more info here