You help others. Let us be there for you

Brenda Phillips

Samaritans volunteer

As part of the Our Frontline campaign to support the mental health of all those out working to protect us during the coronavirus crisis, we’ll be regularly sharing stories, tips and other thoughts about what life is like for them at the moment, in their own words.

Here, Brenda Phillips, a volunteer on Samaritans’ dedicated support line for NHS and social care staff, reflects on the challenges frontline workers have faced over the past year since the first COVID-19 lockdown.

No-one envisaged or wanted this pandemic, but, once it was inevitable, Samaritans launched a dedicated wellbeing line for our health and social care staff who have acted as our frontline against coronavirus. The line is open 7 days a week, from 7am until 11pm. We did this with speed and enthusiasm, matched only by the alacrity with which volunteers signed up to join, and it’s a huge privilege to be part of this.

We speak to all manner of key workers within the health and social care sector, including medical professionals and other roles from porters to administrators. Many of these roles were already stressful at the best of times and the pandemic piled on unprecedented pressure.

Everyone is different and every call is different. I’ve heard from callers worried about safety, unexpected redeployment, juggling the relentless demands of work and home life, and matters like bereavement. I’ve also heard from those struggling with exhaustion and isolation and I’ve often offered a listening ear to callers who’ve told me they felt guilty for not doing more.

Frontline workers often put other people’s feelings above their own

Looking back on the year, I’ve realised how frontline workers often put other people’s feelings above their own, with some callers saying that they didn’t want to burden colleagues or risk passing on Covid 19 to friends and families. While they were struggling, they needed to talk about how they were feeling and that’s where we come in.

Talking things through can provide comfort and perspective. We can discuss options or coping strategies, but often the pressing need from health and social care workers is simply to offload to someone who will listen without judgement. Whether it’s been one terrible day or they have been struggling to cope for a prolonged period of time, we are there to listen and support them.

I would encourage other frontline workers to reach out for support when they need it. We hear first hand from our incredible NHS and social care staff about the difference talking to us makes. We know how tough it’s been. We know you are resilient. And we know you are only human. Support like ours and through Our Frontline is a safe space for key workers to share what they are facing with someone and I’d urge anyone struggling to cope to reach out and give us a try.

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