Over 2,900 called for support during the pandemic

Updated 07:28 PM

Pandemic – more cases, less funds for Richmond Foundation

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A Richmond Foundation study shows that during the Covid-19 pandemic there is a massive increase of people seeking help for various problems commented with mental health. Over 2900 persons called the helpline managed by Richmond Foundation. Young people, who suffered less than other groups the physical effects of the pandemic, are also being affected as many are feeling lonely.

Ms. Stephania Dimech Sant, Chief Executive Officer published the result of this study during a press conference on Wednesday morning. She also launched the campaign called “Christmas with Richmond: Help us Help”.

The CEO of the Foundation which specialises in helping people with mental health issues explained, that there was an increase in people seeking help during the lockdown and during non-normal situations many face daily. During 2020 the organisation experienced an increase in demand for its services and a decrease in financial revenue as funds were drained and fundraising activities curtailed.  

Young people suffered loneliness

Dr Natalie Kenely from the Faculty of Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta, explained that  research is showing that teens are experiencing loneliness much more than other age groups.

“Those in the 16 – 24 age bracket experienced the highest level of loneliness during the past 9 months.”

She said that young people are experiencing more fear and less hope for the future than other groups.

Prof. Josianne Scerri, Head of Department Mental Health within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Malta, said that she analysed the results and the number of those using the services of the 1770 Helpline has increased during the lockdown months. While during January and February callers were in the nineties, in April a peak of 954 was reached. The peaks were registered after the announcement of the first deaths as a result of coronavirus.

The helpline was established around 20 years ago and provided a service Monday to Friday, 0800 to 1900hrs.  Since April 2020, the Mental Health Services / Ministry for Health started funding the additional hours so that the service could be extended to provide 24hour coverage, Monday to Friday.

Although during the Summer “relaxed months” numbers went down, still the numbers remained higher than the pre-COVID-19 period; with June and July reaching 173 and 156 respectively. Once again demand for support increased during August, September and October the numbers of callers started rising again.

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Between January and October, the helpline received 2908 calls asking for assistance and seeking help such as asking about guidance towards therapy. Most of the callers are related to issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and relationship issues. The helpline operates 24/7.

In a comment to Newsbook.com.mt Richmond CEO Stephania Dimech Sant, confirmed the need of education, “We still do need further education, particularly when persons with chronic mental illness seek to re-integrate into society.  People still fear that they might cause inconvenience or perpetrate crime, such a violence.”

However, this is not true said the Foundation CEO, “In reality, people with a mental health problem are usually the victims of crime, not vice versa.  So yes, we still need to work hard to educate people better. “

Give the Gift of Therapy

One part of the Christmas Campaign that Richmond Foundation launched today is the campaign: Give the Gift of Therapy. The aim is to solicit funds to make professional mental health services sustainable, for all those who need a service but cannot pay for it. Individuals, corporate entities, families, groups of friends or colleagues can pay forward therapy sessions for people that cannot afford to pay. This helps Richmond in ensuring to carry its services with everyone that requires the support.

Richmond Foundation has produced a series of educational videos covering topics such as anxiety and stress, amongst others. The videos provide basic information on how to recognise symptoms and outline the professional support available.

There are separate versions relevant to adults and to youth. The videos may be acquired against a minimum donation of €2 Euro.

On the Richmond Foundation’s website there are calendars, CDs as well as books which one can buy to help the Foundation.

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