Samaritans have launched new, confidential support lines for health and social care workers and volunteers based in England and Wales The support lines are run by Samaritans and all calls are answered by trained Samaritans volunteers, who provide confidential, non-judgmental support.
English line- open every day between 7am-11pm (Call 0800 484 0555)
Welsh line - open every evening between 7pm-11pm (Call 0808 164 2777)
As we moved from winter to spring this year and the Covid 19 pandemic progressed, our Samaritans Cymru Board met to discuss what we needed to do and say in Wales in response. It was already becoming clear that remote working was enabling us as an organisation to continue to function administratively.
We had stopped all of our outreach work, a key way in which we make contact with individuals and communities who need us most. However, the great majority of our branches had remained open, with volunteers travelling to and from their shifts.
It was a relief when our volunteers were recognised by governments as critical workers, giving them reassurance that they would be able to continue to travel to their shifts in the midst of the most stringent period of lockdown. The concerns the Board discussed included the impact on health and social care staff and the loneliness and isolation resulting from the measures to control the virus.
The core values of Samaritans include a recognition of the importance of empathy, of listening without judgement and a recognition of the power of human connection.
As we work our way through the Covid 19 pandemic, they are more important and resonant than they ever were, but there are greater challenges in enabling those connections to happen. We have surveyed our volunteers on the general nature of the calls coming to them over the past months.
The most common caller concerns linked to Covid 19 have been loneliness and/or isolation, mental health and illness, family, finance and unemployment. We are very aware that the crisis and it’s economic and social consequences have increased existing inequalities.
We need to reach out now more than ever with the message that talking helps, and to let those who need it most know where help is available and that it is alright to seek it.
Our work in Wales includes the direct provision of our service and our work to inform policy and practice. We have met regularly with the Welsh Government and taken part in many discussions to help guide the response to the pandemic. We have wanted to see an approach which is informed by what we already know about those who are at greatest risk and those actions which are the most effective mitigations.
We have been able to keep our service running throughout the crisis. Our dedicated volunteers have gone above and beyond to be available for those in need during these unprecedented times and continue to operate our phone service from our branches. Where some have had to step back due to self-isolation, others have stepped up to take on extra shifts.
In August Samaritans launched a new and bespoke confidential support line funded by Welsh Government. This is a dedicated listening service for NHS and social care workers and volunteers in Wales during this difficult time. Available seven days a week, the wellbeing support line has been designed to help all NHS and social care staff in Wales to process the emotional weight of what they are going through and their experiences, no matter what job they do. Samaritans volunteers offer a non-judgemental listening ear, safe space to offload and share information about other sources of support for these key workers and volunteers.
April does seem in some ways a long time ago in this extraordinary year, but the themes we were looking at then remain powerful now. We were delighted to be able to launch the NHS and social care helpline, and continue to pick up the themes coming through to us from our callers in a general way. This will inform us as we respond and adapt over the coming months.
Sarah Stone is the Executive Director of Samaritans Wales