Christmas is a time for sharing with loved ones; a time of happiness and giving; the most wonderful time of the year...
But for many people it can be one of the loneliest and saddest times of the year, with the festivities and companionship highlighting what is missing from their own lives.
And this can bring about feelings of despair and hopelessness as people struggle to make it through amid bereavement, relationship breakdown, alcohol or drug dependency, abuse or bullying, money worries and other day-to-day stresses.
But help is always at hand in the form of the support of the Samaritans which has been a listening ear in the Lang Toun for 44 years.
Volunteers at the Samaritans work round the clock, every day of the year, supporting people at some of the dakest times of their lives. Kirkcaldy has 43 volunteers who prove a real lifeline for those in need – and all done completely anonymously and in the strictest of confidence.
Many people still believe that the only way of contacting the Samaritans is by phone and, although it does remain one of the main methods of contact, people can also use email, text, letters or even drop in at the newly refurbished office at 246 St Clair Street to speak to someone face to face during its open hours – Mondays 0800-2200 hrs; Tuesdays 1700-2200 hrs; Wednesdays 1800-2200hrs; Fridays 1700-2200 hrs and Saturdays 1800-2200 hrs.
The charity was started up in 1953 by a Church of England vicar and became the Samaritans after it was “christened” in a daily newspaper.
It is non-religious and is entirely self-funded, relying on fundraising activities and donations from the public.
Samaritans operates on four basic principles: Talk to us – if things are getting you down; We’re always here – round the clock, every single day of the year; A safe place – as volunteers we’re ordinary people who keep what you say between us; Be yourself – whoever you are, however you feel, whatever life’s done to you.
And the Kirkcaldy volunteers are gearing up for another busy spell over the festive season, with recent statistics showing that, among young men, 37 per cent are more worried around Christmas time than any other time of the year, with a third of these feeling lonelier at Christmas.
“Men are much less likely to seek the kind of service we offer or, when they eventually do, it is at a point of crisis,” explained Denise, the Kirkcaldy group’s vice chairman and publicity officer.
“And they are more likely to impulsively make a decision that they no longer want to be here.
“You don’t have to be alone to be lonely. You can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely, and our message this Christmas is that we are here for everyone around the clock when they need us – even if it’s when all the family have gone home and the dark thoughts creep in in the early hours of the morning.
“People may have supportive friends and family in their lives, but wouldn’t necessarily pick up the phone to them when they are finding it hard to cope at 3 a.m.for example. Samaritans hope that they will consider calling them during these darkest hours to hear a friendly voice at the end of the phone offering emotional support can often be enough to get through to the next day.
“We don’t offer solutions to problems. People have the right to make their own choices and come to their own decisions, which may be to take their own lives.
“We will be there alongside them, no matter what their decision.
“What we do is try to help people to explore the options available to them.
“Some people are going through horrible times and can’t see a way out, but often just having someone to listen to them even through a phone call can help.
“We usually don’t get to see the end result of our help, but callers will often just say thank you to us at the end of a call, and that’s enough job satisfaction for us.
“Many people think we are only here for times of great crisis, when everything else has failed, but we are here for everyone and we will listen to them, no matter how small their problems may seem. What may seem minor to one person can be a major obstacle to someone else, and we are not there to judge, so if you are struggling, give us a call.”