Samaritans’ volunteers listened for almost 73,000 hours during the Covid-19 pandemic as thousands of people contacted the helpline for emotional support.
As this past weekend marks one year since restrictions began, Samaritans’ Regional Director Rory Fitzgerald paid tribute to the 1,500 plus volunteers who ensured the helpline remained open for those who needed it most during challenging times – and urged people in need to keep calling.
“There is no doubt Covid-19 has impacted on everyone’s life in some way and will have had a profound impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing,” said Rory, the charity’s lead volunteer in the Republic of Ireland.
“Since the start of the pandemic our callers have been talking about the same issues – isolation, loneliness, anxiety, depression, relationships, employment, financial problems, bereavement and mental health – but these have all been magnified.
Particularly in the current lockdown Covid fatigue has set in and isolation is a big concern with people asking: ‘when will this end?’ Callers are tired and stressed and in more recent times are afraid of getting Covid.
“Callers are also missing relatives and friends and the connection we used to have meeting up with others and that crosses all generations. It is hard for callers to stay positive.”
“However, the dedication of our volunteers has meant our helpline remained opened 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite many senior volunteers having to cocoon at home. Several volunteers took on extra shifts to ensure there was never a time when our helpline had to close.
“Our key message to anyone who is struggling to cope is not to bottle it up. We urge anyone who needs to talk to reach out to a relative or friend or call Samaritans anonymously on freephone 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Coronavirus meant Samaritans had to suspend its face to face and outreach services in March 2020, but volunteers continued to support callers through its freephone helpline and email. Others sought help via the Samaritans website and its new self-help app which helps people manage their emotional wellbeing.
Loneliness and isolation remained among the top reasons why people reached out for support, as well as mental health issues including stress and anxiety, family, relationship, financial or employment issues, bereavement, chronic pain, and illness.
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director with Samaritans Ireland, said the pressures of the pandemic will undoubtedly have impacted almost everyone.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on people’s mental health and now more than ever, a year on from when restrictions were put in place, mental health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of government policies. Adequate supports and resources must continue to be made available for the most vulnerable people across Ireland,” he added.
“This was also one of the toughest times in the organisation’s 60 years in Ireland, but the resilience of our volunteers shone through. We can’t thank our volunteers enough for being there 24/7.”