EVERY six seconds someone will call the Samaritans - an emotional support service for anyone in the UK and Ireland.

The Horsham centre alone receives around 15,000 calls, 120 visits and more than 700 emails in one year from people facing distressful times and thoughts of suicide.

In the lead up to Christmas and New Year, Gill Ross, director of the Horsham and Crawley branch on Denne Road, says ‘we are here for you’.

She said: “Contrary to popular belief, studies have generally shown that there appears to be a lull in suicides during the Christmas period, by as much as 30 per cent, which researchers suggest may be due to the emphasis placed on togetherness that takes place at Christmas.

“There seems to be a protective effect on family throughout the holiday period, with extended family and more isolated relatives included. We find that we have more calls after Christmas in January, when people are faced with the thought of the new year ahead.”

Since the branch opened in May 1973 the service has provided confidential support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The 90 trained volunteers will listen to personal issues and ‘hold your hand down the phone’.

“We’re not here to advise we’re there to listen and explore feelings,” said Gill. “We are here for you, we are normal people from all walks of life. It’s always a huge privilege to help people through their time of need.”

As a result of the current economic climate, Gill explained demand for their services is coming from new sources.

“We’re starting to see a different type of person calling now,” she said, “people in their 50s who were in a secure job and used to a comfortable living.

“That’s changed and they begin to worry about providing for their family and being able to pay the mortgage. Maybe they don’t have the coping mechanisms, and they just want someone to talk to.”

In addition to its listening service, the centre works in partnership with Network Rail and schools across the district in a bid to halt suicides at train stations and self-harming amongst youngsters.

Horsham Samaritans are self funding and rely on legacies, donations, grants, gifts and fundraising events to raise the £34,000 a year it takes to run the centre.

In October the good works of the local Samaritans was recognised with a County Times Community Award at The Capitol theatre. They won Best Volunteer Group, sponsored by Guy Leonard Estate Agency.

To contact the service call 01403 276276 or 01293 515151. People interested in donating or becoming a volunteer are invited to get in touch.