Pharmacist Support has reported an increase in calls this year to their ‘listening friends’ (LF) phone line. In 2017 the charity saw a significant increase in the number of calls to the helpline (up 39% on 2016 figures) and a 28% increase in the total number of calls made by volunteers to LF clients – many of whom receive more than one call over a number of weeks and sometimes months.
The LF helpline has been running for 22 years and in this time has provided a supportive ear to thousands of pharmacists, trainees and students struggling with a variety of work-related and personal issues. The service provides support to those who may benefit from talking things through confidentially (and anonymously if preferred) with a volunteer, who as a qualified pharmacist, understands the pressures of the job and is trained to listen and support reflection.
The most common issues discussed during these calls in 2017 included work-related issues that accounted for 39% of all calls, (down from 42% in 2016), stress at work (24% up from 19% in 2016) and then illness at 16%. The number of calls concerning Social/domestic issues decreased (by 10%) in 2017 to 13% and Addiction less than 1%. NB More than one issue can be recorded per call.
Although this is not a specialist counselling service, callers often feel better having talked things through with someone not related to the situation and independent from their workplace. We find, in many cases, that when someone contacts us it is the first time they have openly discussed their issues. Talking alone may not resolve the issue(s), but it can be a first step in identifying the options available and starting to make changes. Problems don’t normally just go away on their own and the longer they are left, the worse they may get.
Diane Leicester-Hallam of Pharmacist Support commented;
I think people often miss recognising the real value of the listening friends scheme, but when you stop and consider it, it’s quite phenomenal. We have the most amazing group of volunteers who regularly give their time to truly support a colleague in the profession. Callers are given emotional support and encouragement and have the comfort of knowing that someone is in their corner, who isn’t judging them or rushing them. Time is our most previous resource so the fact that our volunteers give theirs, freely to help other professionals is incredibly humbling. Calls can often be quite emotionally charged and our volunteers show real resilience, stamina, patience and determination to help. It’s often difficult to see the value that brings at the time, as callers may be in the thick of a challenging situation. But more and more often we are getting feedback from callers to tell us how much they appreciated the support they received when they used the service. Sadly not everyone has someone they feel they can offload concerns to or share their feelings with, and often even those that do, have many reasons not to do so at any given time so our scheme really bridges a gap and enables anyone who wants to, to tap into a bit of support whenever they need it. Best of all its all completely confidential and led by the caller and their needs, a simple but effective way to provide support.