February 7, 2023

Every conversation is unique and very personal, but they always start the same.

“Samaritans, may I help you?”

Thirty years ago, Pam Rutter saw an ad in her local paper asking for Samaritan volunteers.

“I thought I would be a good listener so I decided to apply,” she told Sky News.

Cost of living calendar – reveal a different story every day

More than three decades later, she’s still there, on the other end of the line – and the Christmas season is no different.

“With the lights, the music, the decorations, the food, the celebrations, it feels like the world is telling us to be happy and generous and happy at Christmas,” said the volunteer from the Birmingham branch, who also serves as a regional director works. of the West Midlands.

“The whole world seems to be painting a picture of that kind of Christmas.

“And that adds to the pressure when there are tensions within relationships, tensions within families – which is compounded by the fact that Christmas often means more and more people congregating in a small space and that creates its own tensions.

“Then the other end of the spectrum is people who see this apparent glee happen and know they’re going to be alone.”

‘Noticeable’ increase in calls

This year, she said there was a “noticeable but small” increase in the number of calls the team receives.

“We really see all human life, all life experiences, and so the list of things that people talk to us about is huge,” she said.

“And it’s usually led by relationships, family, mental illness, physical illness, loneliness, all sorts of things that people struggle with.”

With the cost of living crisis coming under increasing pressure, more people are turning to the volunteers with money concerns.

“It’s really important to talk, rather than keep it bottled up, because talking can often be therapeutic,” Pam said.

“Just the fact that you’ve been given the chance to say what’s on your mind without interruption.”

‘We don’t know what happens next – and we have to live with that’

Even if the caller feels suicidal, Pam never knows what will happen after they finish talking.

“I don’t know what the outcome of that call is. And we have to live with that – whatever the situation, whether it’s someone who’s suicidal or something else.

“They leave and say goodbye at the end of the conversation, and we don’t know what happens next.

“And that’s part of the reality of being a Samaritan — just being there in the moment, for the caller when they need to talk.”

But that’s what they’re trained to do: “We’re trained to just listen, even in their darkest hour when they’re feeling really desperate.”

A man with a telephone

The organization started almost 70 years ago as a special place to help people contemplating suicide.

In the words of its founder, a minister named Chad Varah, Samaritans were just “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency phone.”

Today, approximately 22,000 volunteers work in more than 200 locations across the UK and Ireland.

Every 10 seconds, Samaritans respond to a call for help.

And this Christmas, despite all the festivities, they will still be there.

Where can you go for help during the Christmas season?

If you’re struggling this Christmas, whether it’s finances or your mental health, here are some places you can turn to for help.

Finance:

Turn2us

Turn2us is a national charity tackling financial uncertainty. It offers services to calculate what benefits you may be entitled to and has a helpline to provide support and information to those who do not have access to the internet or have difficulty getting online.

Their helpline: 0808 802 2000

StepChange

StepChange offers free, expert debt advice online or over the phone. You can talk to them about your debts, they will look at your financial situation and advise you on what to do next.

Their debt counseling helpline: 0800 138 1111.

Citizen advice

Citizens Advice helps people with legal, debt, consumer, housing and other issues. It provides information about what assistance you may be able to get from the government or your council to pay for essentials such as food and bills.

You can visit a local Citizens Advice office Monday through Friday or talk to advisors online.

The national telephone service is open Monday to Friday from 9pm to 5pm: 0800 144 8848.

Relay UK – if you can’t hear or speak the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 144 8884.

Mental health

If you think it’s an emergency, or if you want to speak to someone on the phone:

Samaritans

You can call the Samaritan helpline: 116 123.

From Monday to Sunday you can make free calls from mobile and landlines at any time.

The listening spot

The Listening Place provides face-to-face support in London for those who feel that life is no longer worth living. Unfortunately, it does not offer online support.

To make an appointment call: 02039067676.

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