Festive season is a busy time for Horsham and Crawley Samaritans

Horsham and Crawley Samaritans
Horsham and Crawley Samaritans

By Laura Wilkinson

Horsham and Crawley Samaritans are appealing for volunteers and donations after being contacted more than 15,000 times in 2013.

The announcement comes as the charity experiences one of its busiest periods of the year.

“Christmas is a stressful time for everybody,” says Sue Jago, Director of the Horsham and Crawley branch. “If you’re already an anxious person or if you’ve got problems going on in your life, whether they’re emotional or financial, then Christmas could be sort of the thing that pushes you into a really dark place.”

The Samaritans, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013, offers support to anyone in distress through its phone, text and email services. People are also invited to visit its centre at 21 Denne Road, Horsham.

People can get in touch if they are suffering from stress, anxiety, mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, or if they just want to get something off their chest.

While the charity’s volunteers do not give advice, they offer a ‘human voice’ to listen to anyone’s problems, Sue says.

In October 2013, the Office for National Statistics rated Horsham the ‘most anxious’ place in the UK despite being consistently ranked as one of the best places to live.

Respondents rated their anxiety level 4.11 on average, the highest in the country.

For the Samaritans in Horsham, the festive period means an increase in calls from people who are stressed about the financial pressures of Christmas as well as calls from people who are very isolated and alone.

“They may be managing that for the rest of the year but it comes to a sharp focus when it’s Christmas time and they maybe don’t have friends or family or they are estranged from them or whatever and they’re facing the prospect of getting through the holidays by themselves,” says Sue.

The Horsham and Crawley Samaritans anticipate an increase in calls whenever there is an occasion where people are expected to have a good time, says Sue.

“Of course New Year’s Eve for a lot of people must feel like the end of a long holiday,” she adds, “so a lot of people will have been alone for quite a long time by then.”

The Samaritans receive contact from people of various age groups and backgrounds. Across the UK, the charity reported an increase in men calling about financial worries, from one in eight calls in 2012 to one in six today. However, on a local level, Sue says that the Horsham and Crawley branch receives contact from people across the board and about all sorts of issues.

One thing the local branch has noticed however, is a high proportion of young people making use of the charity’s relatively new text and email service. Sue suggests that these are people who might not naturally pick up the phone to get in touch.

“That’s how they feel comfortable contacting us,” she says, “it’s fantastic, we are really pleased.”

Looking to 2014, Sue stresses that the charity’s biggest aim is to challenge the idea that the Samaritans is “only for somebody who is feeling suicidal, or that its for ‘other people’, that ‘normal people’ don’t ring the Samaritans.”

“It could be for any of us, it could be you, it could be me, just maybe once in their life where things become overwhelming: we are absolutely there for everybody.”

The Horsham and Crawley branch is self-financed and is always in need of donations as well as volunteers to answer the phones.

“We offer substantial training to be able to do that and for those people who join us, they tend to find it really rewarding and tend to stay with us for a long time,” said Sue.

If you need someone to talk to, you can contact the Horsham Samaritans by phoning them on 01403 276 276 or by texting them on 07725 90 90 90.

For enquiries about volunteering, email volunteers@handcsams.org