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Volunteers needed for depression helpline amid high demand post-lockdowns

There is also an increase in calls from people affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Fancy Studio

A MENTAL HEALTH charity has appealed for more volunteers for its support line as demand remains high post-lockdowns – with an increase in calls from people affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

Aware, an Irish charity supporting people affected by depression and bipolar disorder, is looking for volunteers aged 21 and over to work remotely from their home or at Aware’s headquarters on Leeson Street in Dublin.

Aware support line manager Lauren Smith said that the plea was being made due to a significant increase in calls to the free phone line during the pandemic.

“If you look at 2019 and 2018, we would see about 27,000, maybe 27,500 calls, that were coming in to the support line annually,” Smith told the PA news agency.

“When we jumped to 2020, that increased to 37,506 calls when the pandemic hit. So it just shows that there was a massive, unprecedented increase compared to all the years we’ve ever seen before.

“So there is a demand for more volunteers based on that, because the demand has grown since the pandemic.

“It’s levelled out a little bit now, for 2022 we’re still counting – that’s ongoing. But it seems to be pretty much on par with last year.”

She said that the demand was also higher because of a greater knowledge among the public about Aware’s support line.

When asked about who rings the helpline, Smith said that “it really is across the board, it is so general”.

She added: “We also see people who call in who are affected by what’s going on in the news, so there’s the pandemic, there’s the increased cost of living, so much that’s going on.

“We would hear people processing what they’re seeing around them and their experience of it, so it’s really everyone.

“It could be the person standing in front of you in a cafe – we hear everything on the support line.”

Cost of living 

When asked about the cost-of-living crisis, Smith said “that’s starting to increase a bit on the line – people who have been personally impacted, and also people who are trying to process the news”.

“I can see from the calls that we are receiving that people are impacted by what’s going on culturally, and would we see calls increase or drop based on what’s happening in the news.

“I can see a link to it, but I wouldn’t be able to comment really any [more] thoroughly than that unfortunately, it just wouldn’t be my remit, but I do see there is a clear correlation between what’s going on in Ireland and the content that we’re hearing on the calls.”

The main people the Aware line aims to support is people experiencing depression, people with bipolar disorder, and people with other mood-related conditions.

They would also advise the friends and family of people experiencing these conditions who ring in, and help direct them to support available.

Stephen McBride, director of services at Aware, said that people choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons.

“For some, it offers the chance to give something back and to make a difference. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.”

Smith said: “They’re listened to in a non-judgmental way, they’re met with empathy and compassion. They have space then, anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes, to talk about whatever they want to talk about, and be heard uninterrupted.

“We’re empowering people with information and resources, and they are heard as well.”

She added: “We can’t offer the support to people or fulfil our mission without the volunteers, so it’s crucial that we get more in at the moment and that we recruit more volunteers this year – just to meet the demand.”

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