The COVID-19 pandemic had significant impact on how services, such as the hospice social programme and bereavement groups, were able to operate; many were either suspended or had to move to an online model. Understandably this affected individuals who relied on that social contact to manage and cope with their well-being and grief. In recognition of this Mountbatten created a helpline for all individuals living on the Isle of Wight affected by isolation, loneliness and bereavement. The 24/7 ‘Keep Connected Helpline’ was developed in March 2020 and was supported by both staff and volunteers. Mountbatten recruited volunteers with the willingness and skills to manage the helpline. All volunteers received comprehensive training to respond to sometimes very complex calls. They received regular support and supervision from trained staff.
Outcomes The numbers of calls received were low but these calls were often complex. It was clear that some individuals with mental health needs were finding it hard to manage in the lockdown, and many bereaved individuals were struggling to cope with their grief in the absence of their usual peer and social network. One call was received on a bank holiday from a couple who were expressing suicidal thoughts and intentions. The volunteer was able to listen to their distress, contact the local crisis team and ensure they had access to the appropriate services to help them cope with their mental health needs. Another caller rang to talk through their experience of loss and grief following the death of a family member. They didn’t have a close support network and needed a listening ear to help with their grief.
Impact It’s clear the helpline provided a vital service during very stressful times for many needing a listening ear at any time of day or night. The helpline will remain part of Mountbatten’s clinical services.
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