CHRISTMAS will be a tough time for some even without a global pandemic to deal with says Samaritans, as the charity’s latest research reveals that being separated from family and loved ones over the Christmas period is one of the biggest concerns facing callers.

But volunteers at Reading and other branches within the Thames Valley will be there round-the-clock throughout December to make sure someone is there to listen to anyone who is feeling alone or struggling this festive season.

This is no truer than for Jason from Reading, who felt his whole world had fallen apart one Christmas.

After struggling with his mum’s death, breaking up with the mother of his son and the loss of his job, it all became too much.

Jason said: “The hardship faced by people trying to cope with the pandemic reminds me how overwhelming everything became for me at Christmas.

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"Thankfully my ex-wife noticed my struggles and convinced me to pick up the phone to Samaritans.

"Although it was one of the hardest things I have done – that phone call changed my life and put me on a new path.

"Samaritans gave me hope and helped me to find my purpose again.”

Listening volunteer and Reading Samaritans Branch Director, Ali Chapman, explains why it is important for someone to be at the end of the phone.

She said: “We know that Christmas can be difficult for many people.

"It’s a time when loneliness and everyday issues can really hit home which might be heightened this year.

"Regardless of what happens with Covid restrictions, we want people to know that confidential support is available 24/7, and that we are there for everyone this Christmas.

"Mental health struggles, isolation, trauma, and suicidal thoughts don't take a break just because it's Christmas day, in fact they can be amplified.

"Samaritans has never been a more vital lifeline.”

Volunteers at Reading Samaritans have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure their vital service is available around the clock for anyone who needs help.

Since lockdown in March, Samaritans volunteers across the UK and Ireland have provided emotional support over a million times via phone, email and letters.

Last Christmas, Samaritans, the only charity there for anyone struggling to cope 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, responded to over a quarter of a million calls for help and over 10,000 calls for help came on Christmas Day alone.

This year, 90 volunteers will staff the Reading branch over the Christmas period.

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People can help Reading Samaritans to be there for those who need emotional support this Christmas by making a donation via the Reading Samaritans Virgin Giving.

Donations can also be made to Reading Samaritans via Amazon Smile and through which turns purchases from more than 4,000 online retailers into donations.