When most people will be celebrating the joyous family festivities associated with Christmas, Fr Michael Gatt will be offering a listening ear to those whose sense of loneliness and isolation is magnified at this time of year.
The Gatt Helpline or “Gattline”, as it has become known over the past 26 years, operates 24 hours a day during the Christmas period, fielding up to 100 calls a year, some from as far away as Canada and New Zealand.
More than three decades ago, Fr Gatt recognised the vulnerability of people without family or peer support during this period. “Christmas is a difficult time for many,” he said.
“I felt there was a need for the helpline and so I started it and it went very well.”
Fr Gatt said loneliness, substance abuse, suicidal feelings and family breakdown are common issues callers share at a time when many support services are closed.
His team offers a confidential and compassionate ear and provides referrals when necessary.
Each year, the Helpline receives new callers, but there are also regulars seeking friendship and support.
Fr Gatt says he has provided emergency funds to families and others facing extreme financial hardship and believes the Helpline has made a difference to the hundreds who have utilised the service.
“This is a festive season if you have a good home and you are happy and safe,” he said. “But for many people this is not the case”.
The Helpline is open 1-31 December and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Contact number is 08 9440 5379.
People can also seek support by emailing Fr Gatt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information can be found at www.michaelgatt.net.