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Christmas can be a difficult time for many people

For many people who have suffered bereavement or are struggling with depression, relationship problems or loneliness, this time of year can be exceptionally challenging.

Watching others having fun, planning family gatherings and buying gifts and food for Christmas, can heighten feelings of loss and isolation.

It is important to be aware that not everyone will be in a celebratory mood and be sensitive to those who, for whatever reason, find the festive period tough going.

Candlelight vigils will be held across Ireland tomorrow to raise awareness of the support that is available to those experiencing dark times.

The Samaritans, which is organising walks, vigils and carol-singing, is encouraging anyone having difficulties to contact the charity and speak to a volunteer.

For many families who have lost a loved one through suicide in the past year, this first Christmas without their relative will be especially poignant.

Sadly, there will be many families in this position.

The suicide rate in Northern Ireland is around 300 deaths a year, a figure that is quite shocking.

In this paper yesterday, Ashley Kane, a mother of one from Co Derry, whose fiancé Shane Brennan took his own life at the weekend, spoke movingly about the heartache and devastation caused by his sudden loss.

She said that in Shane's case there had been nothing to indicate why he took this step and urged anyone in distress to reach out for help.

It is crucial that the message gets across to those struggling in any way that there are individuals and organisations who are there to help, to listen and provide support.

Anyone experiencing distress or despair, or seeking guidance about someone they know, can contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or the Samaritans on 116 123.

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