Galway Samaritans answered more than 900 calls every week of this year; the charity’s newly renovated city office at Nun’s Island responded to 47,219 cries for help over the past twelve months.
“The number of calls received has certainly increased in the past two years since we got the freephone number,” said Anne Wynne, Director of Samaritans Galway.
Nationally, Samaritans received some 700,000 calls from people who need help. People don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans.
“The nature of the calls varies. They could have mental health issues, depression and anxiety. There could be relationship issues. There could be abuse, be it physical, mental or sexual. There could be financial problems.
“Bullying is another issue. It could be historic or current bullying. And every other issue that you could think of. You mightn’t see it as much of a problem, but for the person on the other end of the line it could be a huge problem,” said Ms Wynne.
Samaritans Galway offers a 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year service. The charity has a loyal band of about 100 trusty volunteers, none of whom are paid, including the director.
This time of year, is a particularly busy one for Samaritans.
“Loneliness is a big issue at Christmas and New Year,” said Ms Wynne.
“People who are on their own, and who wouldn’t hear a human voice from one day of the week until the next, can feel awful lonely. It’s so dark at this time of year, too. It’s dark when you get up in the morning, it’s dark when you’re coming home, and then the weather the way it is, it’s dull and dark all day. That has an effect on people.
“If you walk through town and you see people are having a great time at Christmas parties. They mightn’t actually be enjoying it but for someone alone or who is lonely it might appear that way.
“If you’re dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings, the festive season can make everything seem worse. Whether you’re on your own or feeling alone in a crowd, we don’t want anyone to struggle. So, remember you can call Samaritans for free from any phone and, if you’re expecting to have a good Christmas this year yourself, have a think about those around you who may not be as lucky and give them the gift of listening.”
Galway Samaritans will be working round the clock this festive season, to respond to calls for help. The new offices at 14 Nuns Island will be open from 9am to 8pm, on Christmas Day, also, for people who wish to drop-in.
It costs roughly €75,000 to run the Galway branch yearly, and less than 10% of that is funded by Government, with the rest coming from donations from the public. They also run an outreach programme to highlight the work of Samaritans in places like Loughrea and Glenamaddy and elsewhere in the county.
Proceeds from Galway Christmas Market this year went to the Samaritans, and it also helped to raise awareness of the charity. Proceeds from the Christmas carol service of GMIT’s choir went to Samaritans this year, as did a third of the proceeds of the St Nicholas’ Church service over the weekend.
“There has been a lot of goodwill and support for Samaritans. People have been generous,” said Ms Wynne.
Samaritans will be providing over 12,500 hours of listening at its 20 national branches all over Ireland this Christmas.
Yesterday, volunteers invited the public to join them at 6pm at 14 Nuns Island for a candle-lit walk to Eyre Square for carol singing to mark the Winter Solstice.
The Samaritans free phone number is 116 123, it is free to call and will not appear on your bill. Alternatively, you can text 087-260 9090 or visit Samaritans website.