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Christmas not such a merry time

VIOLENCE, loneliness and depression have spelled misery for many people during the so-called season of goodwill.

VIOLENCE, loneliness and depression have spelled misery for many people during the so-called season of goodwill.

Hyndburn care agencies have worked flat out to help those for whom Christmas was far from merry.

And the Samaritans' phone lines have been red-hot as they counselled the lonely, depressed and suicidal.

Accrington police say they have had many more calls than usual to incidents of domestic violence, with the numbers rising as the holiday break stretched to the weekend.

Maundy Relief, the Accrington charity which gives advice and practical help to people with problems ranging from homelessness to depression and alcoholism, found itself providing food, warmth and help to 50 people a day on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Manager Dorothy McGregor said: "Some people just stay in bed all day because they cannot cope while others come to us because they have nowhere else to turn.

"We provided an all-day buffet with donations of food from the generous people of Accrington. I hope we showed the people who came to us lonely and depressed some of the true spirit of Christmas. We were a happy, safe and warm place with the lights on at a time when everyone else was focused on their homes and families."

The Samaritans' Director for Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, Sandra Blayden, said volunteers had been very busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Night.

She said: "Over Christ-mas lonely people are more aware of their isolation. When your only company is the television or radio you see or hear families celebrating and feel there is no one out there who cares. It is the same on New Year's Eve - everyone is saying Happy New Year but some people have had a dreadful year and don't expect the new one to be any better."

Sandra was not surprised by the police reports of increases in domestic violence.

She said: "It is ironic that lonely people envy families but family occasions like Christmas put additional pressure on relationships and domestic violence is growing. Calls from abused women increase at what are meant to be happy family times. Sometimes it is the only part of the year when a couple are together for an extended period and the pressure builds up.

"I hope everyone knows there are people like us who realise what they are going through and are always willing to talk. As well as Samaritans, there are others who can provide practical help and they should know they are not alone."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist