To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Anita Millar, assistant for the OrangeLine helpline operated by Saint Francis Hospice in Essex, gives an insight into how the service is providing a lifeline to people who are lonely or bereaved.
Our wonderful OrangeLine volunteers are reaching out from the kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms and even the garden of Saint Francis Hospice. Within a couple of days of the start of the Government’s lockdown, extra technical support was purchased so our invaluable network of volunteers could stay safe while continuing to provide our confidential telephone service for people who are isolated, lonely or recently bereaved.
We feel that our clients need us now more than ever. They need someone to speak to and to give reassurance, guidance and support. We spend time and use our many years of experience to help those who need a little extra support to feel that they are not alone, that someone is listening and really does care about how they are feeling and coping.
People like 86-year-old Patsy, who lives alone in a block of flats in Ilford. She has no family to support her. She is lonely and says that it is like living in a prison. She doesn’t really know her neighbours – just hears the banging of the doors to know that there is someone that lives in the block with her. She is too scared to watch the telly as the news just makes her feel more frightened. Our calls to her are the highlight of her week, providing some normality.
In the case of Kevin, he lost his wife a few months ago. He says he doesn’t mind the isolation as it’s helping him get used to life without his wife of 51 years. What he is finding really hard at the moment is that he can’t hug his son, who he knows is heartbroken at the loss of his mum. They talk every day, but Kevin says it isn’t the same. He likes our calls as he says he can really say what upsets him or is making him anxious. At the same time he’s trying very hard to be brave for his son; he doesn’t want to add to his pain at the moment and says that, without our calls, he wouldn’t know what to do.
We want people to know that we are here for them, whatever they want to talk about – we are always just a phone call away.
For more information visit Saint Francis Hospice
Mental Health Awareness Week runs until May 24th