Samaritans’ Craigavon branch on Thomas Street Portadown experienced a busy time over the Christmas period.
The national helpline was preparing to answer 15,000 calls a day from people in the UK and Republic of Ireland over the festive period.
The local branch answered 8,000 calls for help last year. Fifty-six volunteers from the 63–strong branch were on duty answering calls around the clock from people struggling to cope this Christmas.
Volunteer Margaret recalls one Christmas past with Portadown Samaritans.
“Christmas – a time for family, for festivity and feasting and fun. But that’s not the whole story. Christmas can also be a time of great loneliness; of separation and sadness. A time of distress – even despair.
“I am a volunteer with Samaritans and I can recall quite clearly a call I took on Christmas Day, some years ago. The shifts that day were two hours long, half the normal duration, a concession to the volunteers and their families on that special day.
“About half an hour after I arrived, I took a call from someone who was in great distress – too distressed to speak, able only to cry. Choking sobs and tears gradually gave way to words, hesitant at first, then more relaxed and fluent. For the next hour, I listened, as the pain and the despair came tumbling out. All I did was listen.
“Sometimes being listened to, being heard, can make the difference between giving up and going on. For that Christmas Day caller, ringing Samaritans provided a safe place and time to talk about feelings, to consider options and discuss the way forward.
“And for me, the volunteer, privileged to receive the call, it was the most fulfilling, rewarding hour I spent that day - that week. All I did was listen; all I gave was time. But to share an hour with a person in pain, and to feel that the Samaritans service and support helped someone in distress, made that Christmas Day special for me.”
Help Samaritans by texting ‘SUPPORT’ to 70123* to make a £3 donation.