Samaritans announced today that volunteers in Ireland listened for close to 73,000 hours during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the one year anniversary of restrictions approaches.
Some of the 1,500 volunteers spoke a bit about the different problems facing callers now, compared to March 13, when Ireland entered its first lockdown due to Covid-19.
Volunteer Aileen Spitere from Cork said that: “During the first lockdown what I noticed primarily was the amount of fear there was among callers.”
“Fear of getting Covid, fear of dying and fear of isolation. It was difficult. But even among our callers there was a feeling of us all being in it together.”
“Since Christmas however, there is a weariness among people and the loneliness felt by many is crippling. For many they have not had a regular life for over a year and while many are resilient and stoic, some are at the end of their tether.”
Another volunteer, Rory Fitzgerald from Waterford, echoed similar sentiments, emphasising how lonely this time has been for many.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
What’s more, volunteer Mary Nee from Galway has also noticed that people are speaking to the Samaritans for longer on the phone.
“The past year has been challenging for all of us but especially for the callers who look to Samaritans for support,” she said.
“Our calls are lasting longer as a lot of people are more isolated and alone with their problems.”
“For example, the callers that are depending on day centres for their dinner, socialising, maybe even a haircut, these day centres are a lifeline for vulnerable people and have been closed since last March.”
Samaritans’ Regional Director Rory Fitzgerald paid tribute to the volunteers who’ve helped this past year, emphasising how difficult the last twelve months have been for everybody.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Anyone who wishes to speak to the Samaritans can reach them via freephone at 116 123, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.