Christmas 'loneliest time of year' for one-in-six

 Many people struggle with loneliness at Christmas, The Samaritans has said 
 Many people struggle with loneliness at Christmas, The Samaritans has said 

ONE-in-six people believe Christmas is the loneliest time of the year, according to a survey.

A quarter of people surveyed by the Samaritans said "everything feels worse" over the festive season.

The charity is expecting an upsurge in the number of calls it receives over the holiday period.

The survey also revealed that one in 15 often spent Christmas while one in 25 said they were with family and friends but actually were alone.

Almost 200,000 contacted Samaritans for help last Christmas and it is expecting even more this year.

Director of the Belfast branch Pamela James said the findings of the research were "startling".

"This time of year can bring up painful memories, or worsen difficult feelings often related to family or relationship issues, financial or health worries, to name just a few. The pressure to be having a good time or comparing your life with someone else’s can be too much, leaving many feeling they have no one to turn to," she said.

"The important thing to remember is that no one needs to feel alone this Christmas – Samaritans volunteers are there to listen round the clock, every day of the year. We don’t judge and we don’t share what we’re told, we’re simply there to listen, provide emotional support and help people find a way through whatever’s getting to them."

Samaritans volunteer Robert Bell will be taking calls for the charity for the thirteenth successive Christmas.

"Support services can often shut down at this time of year, or family and friends may be far away, leaving some people feeling more isolated than usual. Knowing I can provide vital support to people who might be having a difficult time is the best gift I can think of giving," he said.

You can reach the Samaritans by calling freephone 116 123.

The number will not appear on your phone bill and the call is free from mobiles and landlines.