SSAFA’s Forcesline, a free and confidential helpline for any member of the Armed Forces community in need, has seen an 80% increase in requests for befriending and support from those feeling isolated by lockdown.
Forcesline acts as a ‘front door’ to the wider support services offered by the charity and beyond. The helpline can be a telling indicator for the overall wellbeing of the military community currently serving (regulars and reserves), veterans and their families.
The support offered to those feeling lonely and isolated will vary and often consists of a referral to a local SSAFA branch or the individual being signposted to another organisation to help with their specific needs.
Initially, during the lockdown period, Forcesline reported a fall in contacts, from 14,916 in the same six-month period in 2019 to 13,705 in 2020. As lockdown started to lift in June, there was an instant 7% uplift in contact (vs. June 2019) illustrating that people needed support facing these new and difficult times.
SSAFA’s expert advisors from the Forcesline team have reported that those calling, and emailing felt afraid to ask for outside help during the Covid-19 pandemic. What struck the team the most, was those in need were even more reluctant than usual to reach out for help; there was a feeling of ‘everyone is in trouble, not just me’ preventing them from getting in touch to get the support they needed.
Additionally, Forcesline received 322 requests from April to June specifically for befriending and support with loneliness; this is an 80% increase from the same time during 2019.
The Forcesline team say that the most pressing issues, during this time, have been:
Need for urgent help with food
Emergency need for housing (principally due to financial issues)
Lack of human contact
Bill Grant, Forcesline Manager said: “Across the globe we have seen a cutting of the support systems that keep us feeling grounded and human – social distancing brings a hidden cost as people feel isolated and scared to reach out. Not being able to have a friendly coffee or meet up with family left many people feeling adrift. It is our job now to continue supporting them and give them the space to explore their feelings and talk about what’s going on for them.”
“We want to urge anyone in the Forces family who is still suffering with the feeling of being on their own, to reach out to us. SSAFA has adapted many ways to support you safely and we want to share the message that we are still here for you – as we always are.”
To speak to the Forcesline team, call 0800 731 4880 (9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday) or use the new live webchat service at ssafa.org.uk/forcesline