DOZENS of people struggling to cope at Christmas and New Year were helped by a vital service in Portsmouth.
The telephone line into the Samaritans branch in North End was ringing on average once every 10 minutes on Christmas Day and was almost as busy on New Year’s Day.
It is the busiest period of the year for the volunteers who take time out from their own festivities to help those who desperately need someone to talk to.
In many cases, the service is a life-saver, as without it many more may find themselves unable to bear the festive season and so take their own lives.
‘The majority of calls we had on Christmas Day were from people who were very, very lonely,’ said branch director Mary Noble.
‘It’s the one day of the year they hate the most.
‘They can’t ring their friends, if they have friends, because they will all be with their families, and they might not have any family to contact.
‘Or, on the other hand, they may have got fed up with their own family and cut themselves off.
‘There was no let-up at New Year.
‘It’s so important for the Samaritans to be there. It is a life-saver for some people, though we do encourage people to ring before they become suicidal.’
Fifteen people have been manning the phone every day over the last fortnight.
One of the major problems is depression and worry about finances.
But not every call was a call for help.
Mrs Noble said: ‘It was very busy on Christmas Day but the nicest call we had was from somebody who said they had called before.
‘They wanted to tell us they were so grateful that we helped them before, and that there were people available even on Christmas Day.
‘They were just ringing to say thank you – and that made our day.’
No-one is paid at the Samaritans, apart from the cleaner, and Mrs Noble says the team do it ‘for love and biscuits’.
She added: ‘I’m very, very proud of everybody who comes in at Christmas, and all the people who would willingly do it if they didn’t have to go away.’
The Samaritans needs more volunteers. Anyone interested can visit samaritans.org/volunteer-us.