Samaritans volunteer, Faith Williams, describes her experience answering calls from health and social care workers during the pandemic.
"As someone who works in the social care sector, I recognise the different ways staff can be adversely impacted by the pandemic. During such unprecedented times, the core values of social work were compromised, with less interaction and opportunities to support each other. So I personally felt it was important to be there for people by answering calls on Samaritans’ dedicated wellbeing line for health and social care staff when we launched it in April 2020, and have continued ever since.
"It can be hard for social care staff to talk within the profession about finding things tough, so independent support like ours that provides a safe, confidential place for callers to talk through their feelings can make a real difference.
"As a Samaritans volunteer on the helpline, I’ve listened to staff who’ve felt vulnerable, anxious, isolated and scared being on the frontline. This was often coupled with a sense of guilt or embarrassment from callers, because they had expected to cope better. I heard from callers about the increased pressures of their day job, and how there was no respite even when they weren’t working because every one of us still had to live within a world with Covid and the accompanying restrictions that helped keep everyone safe, but also limited access to our usual coping strategies and support networks.
"By giving people the time to voice what they are going through, they can reflect on the situation and process what they are finding difficult. By doing this, callers can open themselves up to options that may alleviate things for them. Or by processing everything on their plate, they can work out what is most important to them and prioritise things to give themselves some breathing room. Sometimes, even when callers couldn’t find many options to ease their situation, just talking would help them. As a Samaritans volunteer, I listen without judgement and am here for anyone struggling to cope. Calling Samaritans can be a vital outlet, particularly in the face of new and changing demands. We can be a space for them to cry, to rant and let off steam or a space to be quiet and check in on themselves.
"Working in social and health care can be enormously rewarding and fulfilling. It also has its challenges - ones that existed before the pandemic hit. The winter months have always been more demanding for those working in health and social care. This year, we’re not sure what the winter could bring for those on the frontline, so it’s more important than ever before that health and social care staff take care of their own wellbeing and encourage others to do the same. The resilience of health and social care staff is inspiring; however, it’s crucial to remember that they are human too. The effects of working throughout the pandemic can take a toll so I’d urge anyone in this workforce to be mindful of their own mental wellbeing, and proactively take steps to manage it.
"For any social care worker or health care worker struggling at the moment, please talk to someone about how you are feeling. Take the time to speak to a friend or family member about what you are going through. And if you’re not comfortable speaking to a loved one, remember Samaritans is ready to take your call."