Samaritans Scotland is encouraging Scots to look out for those who may be feeling lonely this Christmas, after the charity revealed that the biggest concern of callers to its helpline is loneliness this Christmas. 

Many callers have expressed fears about spending Christmas without loved ones, the charity said.

In a survey of 1,439 volunteers, 27 per cent of them handled calls from people worried about being separated from families and loved ones over the festive period.

In the survey, from August to October, 395 volunteers said they had talked to callers concerned about Christmas or the winter period.

Other callers were concerned about loved ones who were already feeling lonely as a result of restrictions, and the impact of colder weather and shorter days.

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Volunteers also said people felt concerned about their financial situation, with many questioning if they will be able to pay bills and buy presents.

Samaritans is encouraging people to look out for those who may be feeling lonely this festive season.

Damien, 32, from Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, contacted the charity when he could not see a way through the difficulties he was facing.

He said: “When I saw something online suggesting I call Samaritans I thought: ‘What do I have to lose’?

“That phone call helped me to see that these feelings would pass and to find my way through.

“I really believe it’s a big part of why I’m here to enjoy Christmas with my loved ones, even if that looks a little different this year.”

He added: “I know that even during normal times, many people can find the festive season difficult and the worries and uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic are likely to make this Christmas harder.

“But it’s so important to know that you don’t have to face difficult times alone – whether it’s reaching out to family or friends or calling Samaritans – there’s always someone there to listen.”

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Between December 1 and January 1 last winter, Samaritans Scotland handled more than 18,000 contacts for help via phone, email and letter.

Across the UK, the charity helped 250,000 people – including 10,000 on Christmas Day.

Rachel Cackett, executive director of Samaritans Scotland, said: “There’s no doubt that this has been an unprecedented year and that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to put pressure on mental health and wellbeing.

“So it’s even more vital that we can continue to be there to listen for anyone who needs us this Christmas.

“We know that many people can find the festive season difficult – even without the additional challenges created by Covid-19 – as it’s a time when loneliness can really hit home.

“While the pandemic means Christmas will look different for many of us this year, one thing that won’t change is that Samaritans will continue to be there to listen, 24/7, for anyone who needs us.”

Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day by calling 116 123.