Loneliness in Leeds hits peak level over Christmas period

Loneliness hits peak levels over the festive period, with many finding Christmas Day passing by as 'just another day'.

SAMARITAN: Emma Gale, who was once at rock bottom, will be helping others on Christmas Day.
SAMARITAN: Emma Gale, who was once at rock bottom, will be helping others on Christmas Day.

New figures reveal one in three calls to Samaritans on Christmas Day are from people who feel lonely and isolated.

Samaritans responded to more than 400,000 calls for help during December 2017, by phone, email and text throughout the UK and Ireland.

Despite all the festivities, more than 11,000 of those calls for help and emotional support came in on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, Samaritans is asking all of us to give the gift of listening this Christmas, by encouraging friends and family going through a difficult time to open up and know that it’s OK to not be OK, even at Christmas.

Emma Gale knows how much difference it can make. She endured years of health problems and was unable to get a diagnosis.

Emma said: “In the run up to Christmas 2016 I was sent home from hospital. I felt ill, very lonely and a burden to everyone. I decided my family would be far better off without me and made plans to end my life. After driving to a quiet spot, I decided to call Samaritans for the first time in my life. I just needed someone to talk to, so I didn’t feel so alone.

“The impact of that call was huge. From there my life completely turned around. The next day I went to a hospital appointment and I got a diagnosis for a rare genetic condition. I will never forget what that Samaritan did for me that Christmas, they gave me the biggest gift possible–the gift of life.”

Emma has since become a Samaritans volunteer and will be doing a shift on the phones over Christmas, helping others who are struggling to cope.

Today in Westminster the Jo Cox Foundation is holding a reception at Westminster to highlight the crisis of loneliness at Christmas. They are calling on all MPs to join the Foundation and share a Mince Pie Moment with people who might otherwise be alone.

Heather O’Donnell, chief executive of Age UK Leeds, said: “Research shows that nearly a million older people feel lonelier at Christmas and admit that it isn’t a special day and just passes them by. Nearly one million people aged over 65 don’t see or hear from anyone over the festive period and many rely on the TV for companionship.

There are 37,000 older people in Leeds who are lonely or socially isolated. We can all make a positive difference to the older people around us.”