We have supported people who are struggling to cope over 1,700,000 times in the nine months since the national lockdown was imposed (23 March – 20 December).
During this time, coronavirus was a specific concern in 374,882 emotional support contacts – however, our volunteers suggest it is affecting all callers in some way. Concerns about coronavirus peaked in April, when they were raised in 35% of all emotional support contacts.
Unsurprisingly, the things that people talk to us about has changed as time goes on.
What have we seen during the nine months since restrictions began?
Since the pandemic began, people’s concerns about coronavirus have been mostly related to the knock-on effects of the social distancing restrictions, including economic and mental health worries. However, as coronavirus infection rates rise, we also hear from many callers concerned about the risks and the effects of being exposed to the virus.
Mental ill-health has been the most common concern among callers during the nine months of restrictions, raised in 47% of emotional support contacts. We’ve answered 3% more emotional support contacts about mental health concerns during this period than the same time last year.
What were callers’ concerns in relation to mental health during the nine months since restrictions began?
Since restrictions began, callers talk about pre-existing mental health conditions being exacerbated and a lack of access to mental health support. These concerns have persisted as the months have gone on, with some callers appearing increasingly distressed, hopeless, and feeling trapped without the support they need.
Loneliness and isolation
Loneliness and isolation has been a concern in three in ten emotional support contacts during the nine months since restrictions began. We’ve answered 10% more emotional support contacts about loneliness during this period than the same time last year.
What were callers’ concerns in relation to loneliness and isolation in the nine months since restrictions began?
Unsurprisingly, a major theme has been isolation from family and friends, and feelings of loneliness being exacerbated by the restrictions. Volunteers tell us that loneliness has caused increasing distress as time goes on as people have felt the cumulative effects of long-term social distancing measures. This has been particularly common among elderly callers and people in prison, as well as male callers and young people.
Family concerns have been increasing throughout the nine months since restrictions began, from 27% of emotional support contacts at the start of lockdown to 32% by the end of December. In total, over the nine months since restrictions began, we supported people concerned about family over half a million times.
What were callers concerns in relation to family in the nine months since restrictions began?
Since the restrictions first kicked in, family concerns have mostly related to being separated from loved ones, or rifts caused by living and working in close quarters with family members for an extended time. As infection rates rose significantly in early spring and towards the end of the year, many callers also discussed concerns related to family members catching the virus.
Finance & unemployment
During the nine months since restrictions began, we provided support to people with financial/unemployment concerns over 100,000 times, which has been 6% of all emotional support contacts. We also provided support for concerns about work and study over 160,000 times, accounting for 9% of all emotional support contacts.
What were callers concerns in relation to finance and unemployment during the nine months since restrictions began?
As restrictions began, these concerns related to anxiety about job loss or being furloughed, as well as accessing benefits, food and money. As lockdown went on, concerns about accessing benefits, food and money became much less frequent, while worries about job loss and being furloughed remained common, alongside a growing number of calls from people who have already lost their job/income. As restrictions have persisted into the autumn and winter, these concerns are raised with an increasing sense of distress.