IN a bid to beat the winter blues, regional rail operator Northern has joined Samaritans to encourage passengers and staff to reach out to someone they care about and connect over a virtual cuppa this winter for ‘Brew Monday’.

Samaritans’ new research with more than 1,400 of the charity’s volunteers found that the start of the cold days and long nights over winter heighten feelings of isolation and loneliness for those already experiencing loneliness due to the pandemic restrictions.   

To help ensure fewer people struggle alone, Samaritans has kicked off Brew Monday today, Monday 18 January, the third Monday in January which is sometimes known as ‘Blue Monday’ and thought to be the most difficult day of the year.

The charity, whose Mid Cheshire Branch has been based in Northwich since 1965, is encouraging people to reach out to a friend, family member or colleague for a virtual cuppa and a chat.

Despite the moniker, it doesn’t have to be a Monday or even a cup of tea, it is all about just taking time to really listen to another person could help them work through what’s on their mind.

Julie Bentley, Samaritans’ CEO, said: "We’re so grateful to the rail industry for their support of Brew Monday this year.

"The challenges that many people face during this season have been felt even more acutely this year with the pandemic restrictions.

"At Samaritans, we know how powerful talking and listening, even if it is virtually, can be. It doesn’t have to be a Monday or a cup of tea, it’s about taking the time to really listen and supporting one another, which could potentially save a life."​

Turning this day on its head and into something positive, Northern staff will be holding virtual Brew events to check in on their colleagues, friends and family members that they can’t be with, to stay connected this winter.

Supporting the campaign and helping to spread the message to passengers is renowned author and illustrator Charlie Mackesy.

The uplifting and inspiring drawings, from his bestselling book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse have brought comfort to many.

Winsford Guardian: Author and illustrator Charlie Mackesy joins the Brew Monday campaign with his creations

Now Charlie has created a bespoke animated illustration of the Mole asking to share a slice of cake with a friend to connect for Brew Monday, which will be displayed across the rail company’s digital station screens and on social media this week to reach passengers.

Brian Currie, People Director at Northern, said: "One of our key goals is to make a positive impact in the north of England and we hope that by joining Samaritans on Brew Monday we can reach out to those who are feeling particularly vulnerable at this time of year.

"Samaritans has trained many of our frontline staff to spot someone who might be vulnerable, giving them the confidence to simply start a conversation which could help save a life, so we’re encouraging staff and passengers to put that into practice this winter and connect over a socially-distanced brew."

The Brew Monday support comes as part of the rail industry’s suicide prevention programme.

Samaritans has worked in partnership with the rail industry and British Transport Police to reduce suicides on the railway for over 10 years, having trained over 22,000 rail and BTP staff to look out for passengers and make conversation if they feel someone might be vulnerable.

Find out more at samaritans.org/brewmonday or join the conversation on social media using #BrewMonday and why not make a donation while you’re there, you could help save a life.  

To contact the Mid Cheshire branch of Samaritans, call 116 123 free from any phone or 0330 094 5717, where local call charges apply.