THE Samaritans Ireland impact report has shown very high usage the service, which in Clare answers around 1,600 calls per month.
Launched on Friday, World Suicide Prevention Day, the report showed that, nationwide, the organisation answered over 560,000 calls and emails, providing over 100,000 hours of listening support.
Margaret McMahon director of the Clare branch, on the Kilrush Road in Ennis, said they had to do without the services of a number of committed volunteers for periods of time last year due to Covid-19.
“We had a lot of volunteers who had to cocoon so people just took extra shifts and that was challenging. So many people had to cocoon but they’re all back again, they’re great,” she said.
With around 1,600 calls per month coming into the local branch, “The phones are always busy,” she said.
Virtually everyone had their lifestyle turned upside down by the pandemic, sending stress levels into orbit, and this was reflected in the calls received by the Samaritans.
“Covid comes through an awful lot. Not always directly, but people are more isolated and haven’t been able to get out,” said Ms McMahon.
“Things like workshops for people with mental illnesses were closed so they were more isolated. People were left in their houses, they couldn’t get out for a cup of coffee.
“People were ringing up who had lost their jobs, you had people ringing up who didn’t get on with their parents and were back home because of Covid. There was a lot of that, people very frustrated at the sense of being locked in.”
She said there is an awful lot of anxiety around the disease also, with some people still afraid to move around freely.
There was also a sense of loss as people were prevented from seeing their loved ones for months at a time.
“It made people feel more fearful, more anxious, more isolated. People really missed their families, they couldn’t meet family members, that was very tough for people.”
As with any fairly sizeable voluntary organisation people come and go, and getting new recruits was made much more difficult during lockdown.
“We were one of the first branches to start to train online. It did mean a lot of extra sessions; what would have taken five sessions took ten.
“It was more challenging, but we’re recruiting again, we’ll have training in October and January and we could definitely do with more people.”
The Samaritans can be contacted at any time of the day or night by phone at 116 123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.