Virgin train campaign aims to ensure It’s A Wonderful Life for those in despair this Christmas

It's a Wonderful Life deals with suicide at Christmas time.

FOR more than 70 years It’s A Wonderful Life has been a heartwarming tale of redemption and positivity.

But the dark heart of the classic movie is the hopelessness of James Stewart’s character, driven to the brink of suicidal despair at Christmas.

And now the film, this week voted the UK’s number one festive favourite, is being used to highlight the problems of those facing mental health issues at Christmas. Virgin Trains have been painting the script from the 1946 Frank Capra film along the length of its route from London to Glasgow.

The final lines of the 7.5km-long script were painted at Central Station last week as part of the initiative with Rethink Mental Illness.

“This campaign highlights the need for this support at a time of the year which can be difficult for some of us, and we are proud to be part of it,” said James Fletcher from the charity.

Partner charity Support in Mind Scotland provides direct support for 1,300 people a week. They also supported 170 people who were in great distress and 233 who were expressing suicidal thoughts and who were feared to be at risk.

One of those who has worked with the charity and knows how difficult this time of year is Anne, from Edinburgh.

She and her husband are about to mark 20 years of caring for their former medical student son who has schizophrenia and has attempted suicide.

They have had the bleakest of festive periods, some with him hospitalised and, two years ago, with him in the midst of a schizophrenic incident.

“When he appeared on Christmas Day, he was convinced we were going to his mansion where his wife and relatives were waiting,” said Anne. “All this of course was false.

“It has been so sad and schizophrenia isn’t spoken about as much as depression, for example. But whatever the mental illness, it’s really important to speak out and get help.”

Often the Samaritans are the organisation those facing desperate situations contact. New figures reveal one in three calls to Samaritans on Christmas Day are from people who feel lonely and isolated.

Volunteer Mary Deery, who always mans the phones over the festive period, knows the anguish that can be faced. “Until you’ve sat in a Samaritans phone room and taken those calls over Christmas, you have no idea how tough it can be for a lot of people,” said Mary.