A free phone line has been set up for missing people to send Christmas messages to their families.
Missing In Ireland said that, while it respects someone’s right to remain missing, it understands the heartache and worry felt by those at home.
Dermot Browne, chairman of the support service, said many people run away or go missing by personal choice for a variety of reasons including relationship breakdown, personal or financial problems or a desire to start a new life.
“Sometimes direct contact with those left behind is not possible because of the passage of time or regret for actions taken,” he said.
“As a support service we hope to bridge the communications gap and bring reassurance to those who worry about what has happened to their missing loved one.”
Anyone listed as a missing person can call the Message Home helpline on 1800 911 999 and leave a message for their family to let them know they are alive and well.
Alternatively, anyone who wants to speak to a volunteer can call 1890 442 552 and then record message for a relation or friend.
This 24/7 service, which is unique in Ireland, will act as an intermediary with the intended recipient. Callers cannot be traced.
There were 8,511 people reported missing last year, with 28 cases still unsolved.
Mr Browne said Christmas is a special occasion for families.
“For some, however, it can be a particularly trying time with that empty chair at the dinner table and memories of happier times,” he added.
Message Home is an extension of the Missing Persons Helpline which supports those who go missing and family and friends left behind.