AID agencies have been deluged with calls about debt, redundancy and thoughts of suicide since the start of the credit crunch.

The Samaritans have seen a dramatic rise in the number of calls to the Hyndburn, Blackburn and Ribble Valley branch since the recession took hold, with many expressing thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Michael Gerrard, branch deputy director, said: "There has been a significant increase of 10 per cent on last year.

"And there has been a massive increase in the number of emails, which rose from 3,000 in 2006-07 to 16,000 in 2007-08. We expect a further increase on that this year.

"A lot of it is down to financial problems and the stresses it places on families. Stress can lead to more serious matters and people do think of suicide and self-harm as a way out."

The charity is planning to expand by setting up a text service in the next couple of months to ensure it is accessible to younger people.

Meanwhile, Hyndburn’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau has seen a huge increase in the number of inquiries.

There has been a 42 per cent rise in the number of benefit inquiries from 786 to 1,123, a 289 per cent increase in inquiries regarding Job Seekers Allowance from 19 to 74, a 250 per cent increase in redundancy inquiries from 20 to 70 and a 14 per cent increase in mortgage inquiries from 123 to 141.

The Paradise Street, Accrington, service is using a £19,000 windfall from the Government to extend its opening hours and is expecting to see 2,500 clients in the next year,

Manager Andy Latham said: "We saw 500 more people in 2008-09 than in the previous year. The figures rose from 1,535 to 2,016.

"As people on low and moderate incomes struggle to make ends meet at a time of increasing uncertainty about the security of their jobs and incomes, access to reliable, high-quality, free, independent advice has never been more vital."

l The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is joining Accrington Stanley for tomorrow’s home game against Lincoln City at the Fraser Eagle Stadium.

Volunteers will be on hand to give out promotional material and spread the work of CALM, which was set up in 2006 to support vulnerable men aged 15 to 35.

The suicide rate in the North West is consistently higher than that in England and Wales as a whole.

Anyone in need of advice can call into the Citizens’ Advice Bureau at The New Era Centre, Paradise Street, Accrington, or call The Samaritans’ 24/7 helpline on 01254 662424, 08457 909 090 or email