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Suicide prevention charity, Samaritans, is urging people to stop striving for a perfect Christmas this year

As Sheffield gears up for the festive season, Samaritans is highlighting the reality that thousands will find it hard to have a happy Christmas - with strains from health, family, work, relationships, money, uncertainty or loneliness - and is encouraging people to ‘get real’ instead, in an effort to save lives.

Sheffield Samaritans director, Sandra Waters, said: “2016 has been a year of change and challenge for everyone, so we want people to focus on having a #RealChristmas instead.

“Difficult feelings don’t discriminate - they don’t care if it’s December or June. We know that one in five adults has felt suicidal – it’s not that uncommon and can happen to absolutely anyone. On average, more than 500 people take their own lives in the UK every month and every death from suicide is a devastating tragedy.

“So, away from the idyllic images and all the hype around the season’s celebrations, let’s get real about how we can save lives, not just at Christmas but all year round. And that’s by listening to how a person who may be having a tough time really thinks and feels.”

To help people listen, Samaritans has produced a set of vouchers that can be given as Christmas presents on their own, or along with staples like chocolates or bubble bath. Each voucher can be personalised and entitles the person receiving it to some one-on-one listening time with the giver. It could be over a coffee, while going for a walk or part of a night in with a mate watching a box set.

The vouchers are available to download free from Samaritans’ website, along with tips on how to be a good listener, and looking after yourself this Christmas.