By Erika Sassone
Increased loneliness and anxiety during Covid-19 has led Galway residents to stay on the phone to the Samaritans for longer periods of time.
The group, which offers support to those struggling with mental health issues, have reported that calls to the service have not increased but have been considerably longer during the pandemic.
Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, Niall Mulligan, stated that the service is busy all year round but they are hearing from people struggling during the pandemic.
“Samaritans is busy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and this hasn’t changed during the pandemic. Our volunteers have been hearing from people feeling concerned about isolation, unemployment, mental health and illness amongst other issues. Samaritans volunteers – including volunteers at our branch in Galway – answer over half a million calls a year. While we have not received additional calls during Covid, we have noticed that calls have been longer than usual, especially from those who are lonely and anxious about Covid-19,” he said.
Samaritans is especially concerned about young people and their relationship with social media.
“It is important for everyone to be aware that some people, including young people, can be particularly vulnerable in relation to coverage of suicide and self-harm in the media and on social media. Young people are more likely to be influenced by what they see and read more than other age groups” it said.
Aware of the fact that staying at home could have an effect on mental wellbeing, Samaritans has organised a step challenge campaign for which all participants are challenged to take 310,000 steps during the month of March.
Samaritans is not the only charity worried about the consequences of the lockdown, different groups have launched campaigns to help Galwegians cope with the situation.
Pieta House calls people to the annual ‘Darkness Into Light’ walk, despite of the pandemic.
“Each year the walk provides an opportunity for people to connect with their local community and to show their support for those who have been impacted by suicide,” it said.
At the same time, NUI Galway Student Union has launched a step challenge campaign to help both students and staff to protect their physical and mental health. The challenge is called ‘Marchaton’ and its aim is to reach 10,000 steps per day by March 28.
Vice President for Welfare and Equality at NUI Galway, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, stated the importance of this campaign and shared her concern about the mental health of students.
“I’ve been inundated with emails this year, with accommodation issues, people struggling financially, all impact on their mental health and obviously the issue of loneliness. Students are at their breaking point. The counselling service has seen an increase in eating disorders this year during lockdown, which is really sad to see but is not surprising in a way because you’re stuck at home all day with mirrors and with your phone and you’re stuck all day with your own thoughts as well,” she said.
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