Lead SALead SA

Working on the Suicide Crisis Lines on Christmas Day

Written by: Dianne Mc Alpine

It’s December - The holidays‘, and the season to be jolly. For many it means a time of family fun, relaxation, and festive season cheer. But for many people, Christmas and New Year are a time of dread.

Fortunately, South Africa’s Suicide Crisis Lines are open 365 days a year and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s (SADAG) counsellors are on the lines to help those feeling despair.

December holidays in South African are almost synonymous with travelling home or to the coast. Travel is expensive and the reality is that for many of us is we simply do not have the funds. It is very tough for many people to keep up with expectations from family, friends, and society.

“Many people are not in a festive mood, or don’t feel like there’s much to celebrate, but still they put themselves under pressure to do what is ‘expected’ - to have parties, go to parties, give lavish gifts – when what many of us really need is a quiet place to rest."

SADAG’s Director, Zane Wilson

The festive season for many brings acute emotional pain and distress. More and more, the ‘silly season’ is becoming the ‘dreaded season’; the time of year when there’s too little time, too much to do, too much money to be spent and not nearly enough coming in; the time of year when we should be winding down but are really being wound up. For the many South Africans who have experienced a loss, have no family, are unemployed, or who suffer from a psychiatric condition, the festive season can be a time of intense loneliness, financial worry, and stress.

"The end of year invariably stirs a host of feelings. For some it is a time of emotional stock-taking and reflection, whilst for others a time of regret, depression and loneliness. Many people feel miserable at this time of year. For some it may be the first Christmas without a loved one; the first Christmas since a divorce; the first holiday season for a student away from home, and the first in such an uncertain economic climate. I always feel a raw difference between the festive decorations and carols in shopping centres and the desolation and sadness so many are feeling."

SADAG Senior Counsellor, Shanne, who has worked the Christmas shift for over 20 years

One of the hardest things to deal with at the end of the year, is the lack of basic services. The calls receieved often require urgent action and intervention, but especially at Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year, these services can be very hard to find.

SADAG has an extensive referral guide of mental health professionals and support groups throughout the country and often their leaders are called on to assist in an emergency. At a time of year fraught, not only with sadness and loneliness, but also a lack of services like ambulances and police, the call centre really is the last line of hope for many.

“We remain open throughout Christmas and the New Year. For many callers, it is the build-up to Christmas that is the hardest– the anticipation of a day on which the focus is family, togetherness, food and gifting. Once Christmas comes some feel the relief that this season is almost over. For others, it is the day on which they are most at risk.”

Senior Counsellor Vanisha, who also works the Christmas shift

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) was founded in 1994 to provide help, counselling, advice, referral, and crisis intervention to those in need. says . Then, of course, for people with children or teens, as soon as Christmas is over, the back-to-school crunch begins.

SADAG’s toll-free Suicide Crisis Lines 0800 567 567 are open from 8am until 8pm. The emergency line 0800 12 13 14is open 24 hours.

Although SADAG’s incredible team of volunteer counsellors don’t spend their Christmas in the usual way, they say that beyond the pain they are exposed to, there is always hope. At SADAG’s suicide crisis centre, counsellors really do care for their callers and do all they can to support them through this particularly dark time.

Help is available on the end of a telephone line and there is always hope. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group is there if you feel no-one else is.

Thank you to all those SADAG selfless volunteers who give up their time to help others around the country who need kindness, sensitivity, support and care on Christmas Day.

For more information, please call Tracy 011 234 4837 or email media@anxiety.org.za.

24hr Helpline 0800 12 13 14

SMS 31393 (and we will call you back)




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