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Helpline aims to combat isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic
Forcesline, a free and confidential telephone helpline, email and webchat service from SSAFA, has been working hard to combat loneliness and isolation among the Armed Forces community during the pandemic …
In 2020, SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity was awarded a grant to aid in its work to alleviate loneliness and isolation among the Armed Forces community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of this grant was dedicated to its Forcesline service, a free and confidential telephone helpline, email and webchat service. Forcesline is available to all members of the Armed Forces community, including serving personnel, veterans and their families.
The helpline acts as a ‘front door’ to the wider support services offered by the charity and beyond. Forcesline can be a telling indicator of the overall well-being of the military community currently serving (regulars and reserves), veterans and their families.
The service allows individuals the space and time to discuss their problems with an experienced advisor, who can offer an ear to listen for as long as they need. Many callers contact Forcesline having not spoken to anyone about their issues or experiences, and the opportunity to talk to another person who listens to them can make a huge difference.
The support offered to those feeling lonely and isolated will vary, and individuals will often be referred to a local SSAFA branch or signposted to another SSAFA service or one of our partner organisations, to help with their specific needs.
As lockdown started to lift in June 2020, we saw an instant 7% uplift in contact (vs. June 2019), illustrating that people needed support to help them face these new and difficult times.
Additionally, compared to the previous year, Forcesline saw an 80% increase in requests between April and June specifically for befriending and support with loneliness, highlighting the need for support among the Armed Forces community.
SSAFA’s expert advisors from the Forcesline team have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, and thanks to the grant, SSAFA was able to upgrade its equipment to allow support staff to work from home and continue supporting those in need during the pandemic.
Says Bill Grant, Forcesline manager at SSAFA: ‘Across the globe, we have seen a cutting of the support systems that keep us feeling grounded and human – social distancing brings a hidden cost as people feel isolated and scared to reach out. Not being able to have a friendly coffee or meet up with family has left many people feeling adrift. It is our job to continue supporting them and give them the space to explore their feelings and talk about what’s going on for them.
‘I think it’s important to remember that loneliness and isolation isn’t just something that people on their own feel. You can feel very lonely in a room full of people, including your family and friends. I would encourage anyone experiencing these feelings to reach out and get in touch – we’re here to help.’
Call SSAFA’s confidential helpline, Forcesline on 0800 731 4880 or start a live chat here
For more information about the work of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, click here
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