Published Monday, 19 November 2012
Many families are struggling in debt, as Christmas approaches. (© UTV)
The countdown to the festive season is well underway - but with the recession biting hard, there is little to be cheerful about for some.
Charities are reporting a huge rise in the number of families who have working parents coming to them for help. One organisation, Christians Against Poverty, has revealed that half of the people who have approached them are suicidal.
Two years ago Rebecca McConkey - who has two children, seven-year-old old Ruby and two-year-old Ollie - found herself £10,000 in debt.
Despite working as a nurse she said she struggles every day to make ends meet.
"At the minute it's quite difficult," Rebecca told UTV.
It's very shameful and it's difficult to pick up the phone and ask for help, as much as I know the help is there but it's still quite degrading to get to the point where you have to ask for that - but sometimes you have to put your pride to one side
"Sometimes you get a bad week, like this week has been, where something goes wrong with the house and you find yourself with no oil, no heat and no spare cash to even get food.
"That's where it can be quite hard, especially when you know in the near future Christmas is coming and you've got no money to spend.
"It's come to that on a couple of occasions where you open the fridge and think 'okay, I need something for pack lunch' and you maybe have enough money to get the ham and the fruit for a pack lunch, but you don't have enough money to get the dinner tonight.
"That's what is coming down to this week."
Such is the level of debt in Northern Ireland, Christians Against Poverty has seen a 24% increase in the number of people they are trying to help, compared to last year.
Chris Cupples from the group said many of them are deeply distressed.
"Worryingly we did a survey earlier in the year and asked clients what it felt like to be in debt," Mr Cupples told UTV.
"We found that in Northern Ireland one in two had either attempted or considered suicide because of debt - so you can see it affects people's mental health and caused depression and illness, and there's always a way out of it but that pressure can build up and cause illness."
The pressure on parents to provide the same toys as their children's friends leads to growing concern that, come January, there will be credit card bills to pay.
Rebecca said she hopes she can give her children a memorable Christmas without the festive season coming to end with even more debt to clear.
"It's very scary when you reach the point when you can't pay anymore and you've got people calling from eight in the morning to eight at night demanding money and letters coming through your door every day," she continued.
"It can get quite depressing at times, obviously you want to do the best for your children.
Christians Against Poverty telephone: 0800 328 0006
St Vincent De Paul telephone: 028 90 351561
"But in the long run they won't remember in monetary terms what they got for Christmas when they were seven - but maybe they will remember what mummy did with them on Christmas Day when they were seven."
© UTV News