Christmas busiest time for Lifeline

THE festive season isn’t festive for everyone, says Lifeline Central West CEO Alex Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson said this was Lifeline’s busiest times, when people reached out to Lifeline’s telephone counselling service for help.

“Christmas is the busiest day of the year for us and frequently it’s because families are separated from each other,” he said.

“Often mum and kids are a unit and dad’s left out and that could come as a result of divorce or separation.”

Mr Ferguson said Christmas was also a time when people looked at their lives and reflected, and “sometimes that reflection’s not as pretty as it could be”.

He said often callers expressed unhappiness, loneliness or anger when they called Lifeline, while some self-medicated by using drugs and alcohol.

“People try to use alcohol or drugs to mask their emotions and make this time of year less emotionally painful, but usually it goes the other way,” he said.

“I’d recommend someone with serious issues talk to someone anonymously.

“Lifeline is like a safety valve or a triage for emotionally-damaged people.”

Mr Ferguson said callers came from different walks of life.

“There’s as much strife at the top end of the food chain as there is at the bottom end, emotions are just the same,” he said.

This year Lifeline received 800,000 calls from people in crisis, four times more than last year.

Lifeline’s phone number is 13 11 14.

The Benevolent Society offered these tips to cope with the festive season:

* Plan ahead: Don’t make the same mistakes as last year. Have a plan that includes less stress and more relaxed time with loved ones. 

* Have a ‘me’ strategy: It might sound selfish when Christmas is supposed to be a time for giving, but looking after yourself is actually the best gift you can give to yourself and your family. 

* Teamwork: Delegate and encourage family members to all pitch in with preparations. 

* Minimise conflict and alcohol: These tend to go hand-in-hand, and Christmas can trigger memories of past hurt and disappointment. 

* Have compassion for others, and importantly, yourself: No-one’s family is perfect, so give yourself and others a break. 

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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