AS the holiday season gets into full swing, it can be easy to overlook how Christmas can be the hardest time of year for some.

Whilst families meet to exchange presents and make memoires, some people are alone and the sense of isolation is more acute than ever.

Between December 1 last year and January 1, Samaritans across the UK answered more than 300,000 calls for help.

This year, more than 100 volunteers at the Colchester branch will be doing their bit to provide emotional support to those who are struggling.

Volunteers in Essex will be among the 1,500 volunteers across the UK reporting for duty on Christmas Day.

Last year, each volunteer answered an average of 12 calls per Christmas shift, with callers sharing a range of personal challenges from mental and physical health struggles to family issues, relationship problems and the misery caused by loneliness.

Gaynor Bell, director at Colchester Samaritans in Walsingham Road, Colchester, said it is so important to makes sure there is someone there to listen throughout the festive season.

She said: “At this time of year it can be easy to forget some people won’t have that Happy Christmas or be celebrating New Year’s Eve.

“It can be a lonely and isolating time of year for many for all sorts of reasons and having someone there any time of the day or night to reach out to is important.”

Newly-trained Samaritans volunteer Sue Peart, 60, will be volunteering for the first time this Christmas.

Last Christmas she left her job as an award-winning national newspaper magazine editor.

At the same time her mum died.

Sue said: “I was struggling with the fact my career had come to an end and then I faced the grief of losing my mum.

“It set the seal on a terrible year.

“I won’t forget how comforting it was to have Samaritans’ number by my bedside, just in case I needed to call in the middle of the night.

“I could never have predicted I would become a volunteer for Samaritans.”

Having been through difficult times herself, she realised how important it was to be there for someone in need.

She said: “It’s a time of year that can be a pressure-point for people, particularly if you’re going to be spending Christmas on your own.

“All the emphasis on happy families can make you feel even more alone.

“Personally, I know this Christmas will be tough for me as it will be one year since I lost my mum.

“With suicide rates on the rise, Samaritans has never been more of a lifeline.

“It would be a tragedy if Samaritans wasn’t able to be there for those in distress.

“Making a donation will ensure we’re there for everyone who needs help.”

The charity is asking people to send a Christmas gift to help Samaritans continue to be there for those who need emotional support.

Making a donation of £4.99 will help Samaritans answer a call for help.

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