SSAFA’s Forcesline has seen an 80 per cent increase in requests for befriending and support from those feeling isolated by lockdown measures and the coronavirus pandemic.
Forcesline is a free and confidential helpline for any member of the Armed Force community in need. The helpline acts as a front door to the wider support services offered by the charity and other providers.
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support the Forces and their families since 1885.
In 2019 SSAFA volunteers and employees helped more than 85,000 people in need. People who are currently serving, reserves, veterans and their families can all be support by SSAFA.
The Forcesline helpline can be an indicator for the overall wellbeing of the military community currently serving, veterans and their families. The support offered through the helpline to people who feel lonely or isolated is based on each individual, but often consists of a referral to a local SSAFA branch or the individual being signposted to another organisation for help with specific needs.
Bill Grant, Forcesline manager, says: “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 left many people feeling adrift. It is our job now to continue supporting them and give them the space to explore their feelings and talk about what’s going on for them.”
At the beginning of lockdown, Forcesline reported a fall in contacts from 14,916 in the same six-month period in 2019 to 13,705 in 2020. When lockdown measures began to ease in June, there was an instant seven per cent uplift in contact compared to 2019, illustrating that people needed support facing new and difficult times.
Expert advisors from the Forcesline team have reported that those calling and emailing felt afraid to ask for outside help during the coronavirus pandemic.
People in need were more reluctant than usual to reach out to help as they felt there was a feeling of ‘everyone is in trouble, not just me’, preventing them from getting in touch to get the support they needed and deserved.
From April to June, the helpline also received 332 requests for befriending and support with loneliness: An 80 per cent increase from the same time during 2019.
The most pressing issues highlighted by the Forcesline team during this time have been: Mental wellbeing; need for urgent help with food; emergency need for housing principally due to financial issues; lack of human contact; relationship breakdowns.
“We want to urge anyone in the Forces family who is still suffering with the feeling of being on their own, to reach out to us,” urges Bill.
“SSAFA has adapted many ways to support you safely and we want to share the message that we are still here for you – as we always are.”
SSAFA and the Forcesline team are still here to help: everyone is deserving of support. To speak to the Forcesline team, call 800 731 4880 (9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday) or use the new live webchat service here.
How are you feeling? Let us know on Twitter.