Calls to helpline continue to rise

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

CALLS to the Samaritans in the Limerick area increased by 9% in 2011 to nearly 41,000, and hundreds more are expected over the Christmas and New Year season.

CALLS to the Samaritans in the Limerick area increased by 9% in 2011 to nearly 41,000, and hundreds more are expected over the Christmas and New Year season.

Up to 60 calls are received by its Limerick branch each day, who wish to highlight that their staff are just a phone call away for anyone who needs support over the holiday season. Of the 40,875 calls to the Limerick branch this year, one in eight callers relayed worries to the current financial climate.

The busiest times of the week are Saturday night and Sunday, as well as Bank Holidays in general, with a majority of the callers aged in their 50s, although volunteers don’t ask callers their age.

Local volunteer Dermot Troy said the number of emails is also increasing, and in 2012 they hope to increase their availability through text messaging and raise their profile on Twitter. Their presence on the social networking site Facebook has also grown dramatically, with over 12,000 “likes”. But regardless of the method of communication, Mr Troy said it is human contact which is most important, as some people who call haven’t spoken to anyone in a full week. “Loneliness is massive, especially at Christmas time and on Valentine’s Day. There then are issues of isolation, fathers being separated from their kids, or issues with alcohol or domestic abuse, bereavement...,” he said.

“Due to publicity people are more aware of us now and the stigma of mental health issues is being challenged, but it’s still there,” he said. Some callers, especially those who feel bullied or are under great strain at work, have been known to call several times a day for support.

- Call the Samaritans on 1850 60 90 90.