A 1000-strong army of Scottish volunteers is still on call with the Samaritans

The listening ear provided by Samaritans volunteers across Scotland is as critical now as it has ever been.

By Julie Currie
Friday, 1st May 2020, 7:30 am
Sharp focus...many people are struggling to adapt to the “new normal” but Samaritans volunteers are still working to help people in communities across Scotland. (Pic: Chris O’Donovan Photography)

Face to face contacts are no longer possible at the charity’s offices but its 1000-strong army of volunteers are still taking calls to help people through the coronavirus lockdown.

Samaritans has also created an advice hub on its website – www.samaritans.org/scotland – to help people who are struggling with social isolation.

Rachel Cackett, executive director of Samaritans Scotland, is rightly proud of the charity’s volunteers.

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Relationship issues...are coming to a head as people are spending more time together due to lockdown. (Picture: Chris O’Donovan Photography)

She said: “The listening ear they provide is as critical now as it has ever been.

“Our volunteers are going above and beyond to make sure we are here to listen, day or night, during this crisis.

“Before lockdown, we answered a call every six seconds. We’re still here, 24 hours a day for anyone who needs to talk.

“People are struggling with what’s going on, whether they are essential workers, concerned about their employment or have relationship issues.

Rachel Cackett, Samaritans Scotland executive director, said: "We want everyone to know that they are not on their own."

“Many are also worried about the virus itself.

“Our volunteers are here to listen, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – no matter what people are concerned about.

“We can’t have face to face contact at the moment, so people can’t just drop into one of our 19 offices.

“But volunteers are out there every day, answering calls and emails.

“All our branches are applying strict guidelines with regard to hygiene standards and social distancing.

“We’ve all had to adapt fast to such a different environment and we’re learning as we go.

“But I think it’s testament to our volunteers’ dedication that we’re still offering a listening ear, 24 hours a day.

“I’d like to thank every one of them. The work our volunteers do is phenomenal and we wouldn’t be here without them.

“They help make a huge difference to people, offering a non-judgemental ear when people are struggling.

“It’s an extraordinary service, provided by 1000 volunteers the length and breadth of Scotland.”

Samaritans Scotland has developed an advice hub for those who are struggling with the lockdown.

It boasts a wealth of information including how to look after your own mental health, practical ways of coping with isolation and connecting with others.

While it is on call to help, the Samaritans is also asking people to be there for others.

Rachel said: “While we may be physically distant from our family, friends and work colleagues, it’s really important to stay socially connected to each other.

“Our website has a lot of information to help people connect with others who may be feeling socially isolated at the moment.

“The response in local communities across Scotland has been incredible. There’s a real sense of community spirit as people are joining forces to look out for each other.

“Showing someone you care by simply sending them a text or email can make a huge difference when you’re not seeing people for weeks on end.

“It shows that, even though they may be on their own, someone is thinking about them. That’s vitally important just now.”

For those who do slip through the cracks and don’t have anyone else to turn to, the Samaritans is still just a call away.

You can call for free, from any phone, at any time of the day on 116 123. Or, if you prefer, you can also email [email protected]

Whichever way you choose to get in touch, your contact details will not be displayed to the volunteer who answers the phone and you can rest assured your call is completely confidential.

“It may take us longer to answer the phone or emails at the moment but we’re still here,” said Rachel.

“We want everyone to know that they are not on their own.

“If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed and feel like you really need someone to talk to, our volunteers are available 24 hours a day.

“Some people are feeling incredibly isolated and alone due to the lockdown and that’s where the Samaritans really comes into its own.”

While calls and face-to-face contacts have long been the Samaritans bread and butter, the charity is also using new technology.

For those who have access to the internet, it has created a coronavirus advice hub to guide people through these most challenging of times.

Rachel added: “We have taken some difficult decisions, such as stopping our outreach and face-to-face work in communities.

“These were necessary measures to make sure our volunteers stay safe and well.

“However, we’ve created an online advice hub which people can access if they are finding it difficult to adapt to lockdown or are worried about their own or someone else’s mental health.

“People are finding creative ways to help, using technology as an innovative tool. The advice hub is our way of reaching out too.”

To find out more, visit www.samaritans.org/scotland. If you need to talk, call 116 123 or email [email protected]

Going through a range of emotions is common just now

There are all sorts of reasons why people may be finding it hard to cope at the moment.

But the Samaritans has created an online one-stop-shop to help those who are struggling.

There are also lots of things you can do to help yourself:

Make time for yourself, relax and do things you enjoy.

Eat healthily and get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Spend time with people you love.

Talk about your problems.

Be proud of what you’re good at, as well as aware of what you struggle with.

Pay attention to your feelings.

But the Samaritans is there for you, should it all get too much.

Rachel said: “If you’ve stopped doing things you usually love, you’re tearful, not eating or sleeping properly, drifting from people close to you, taking alcohol or drugs to cope or self-harming, you should talk to someone you trust or speak to one of our volunteers.

“Whatever you’re going through – whether it’s fears about losing your job, relationship problems, loneliness, depression or worries about the current situation – you can call us free on 116 123.

“People going through a range of emotions is common just now but even if you don’t have family or friends close by, you are never alone. Samaritans volunteers are here for you.”