One-in-six calls to Samaritans recession-related

One-in-six calls to the Samaritans are recession-related, it has emerged.

“This year we saw the strongest evidence yet the recession is affecting the emotional health landscape of the country,” the organisation’s national chairperson Pio Fenton said.

“Money is an issue that seems to be causing more and more difficulty and the nature of the calls we receive reflects that.”

He was speaking at the launch of the annual report.

Recession-related calls received by Samaritans this year saw a dramatic increase on 2011 when 10% were linked with the economy.

“There has been a real hardening of despair among many of those who contact us; people are struggling to cope in the face of uncertainty around employment, personal debt and other financial concerns.”

Other common issues were family and relationship problems; depression and mental health issues: loneliness; stress and anxiety; and abuse.

Samaritans Ireland executive director Suzanne Costello said calls were also lasting longer and were more intense in nature than before. “Although the increase in the duration of calls reflects a level of stress and anxiety, it also reflects a willingness among people to talk about their problems.”

The busiest time for the helpline is from 6pm to 12 midnight, when 35% of calls are received.

Mental health minister Kathleen Lynch said the volume and intensity of the calls made to the Samaritans reflected the importance of the support it offered.

“As we approach the Christmas holidays, I know Samaritans’ volunteers are scheduling round-the-clock shifts to ensure they are available to those who need emotional support.”

Meanwhile, the Simon Community of Ireland called for urgent action on homelessness amid rises in people sleeping rough.

Launching its annual report, Simon noted official figures suggest a 20% rise in the number of people sleeping on the streets in Dublin from April to November.

The charity also pointed to a significant rise in the numbers sleeping rough in Cork, where fewer than two people were without shelter on any night in March compared to an average of nine each night in October.

Calling on the Government to provide funding, national spokesperson, Niamh Randall said services were beyond the point of being able to do more and more with less and less.

Tough times

* Simon report that so far this winter, four homeless people in towns as far apart as Tralee, Co Kerry, and Bray, Co Wicklow, have died.

* Samaritans report its busiest year ever, with 412,167 calls to its helpline (1850 609 090) — up 3% on last year.

* Samaritans’ volunteers met 6,912 people over the year — up 17% on 2011.

* Samaritans’ listeners in State prisons received 1,100 calls from fellow inmates — an 83% increase on last year.

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