“It’s been a lonely year”

Tele-Onthaal, an organisation that provides a listening ear via the telephone or other applications, received 15% more calls last year.  In all the organisation received 139,000 calls.  A quarter of all calls centred on corona with loneliness the main issue.

Corona measures are having an impact on our mental health and are piling on psychological pressure. If telephone calls were up 15% Tele-Onthaal’s 600 volunteers witnessed a staggering 22% hike in chat convos.

Jennifer Pots of Tele-Onthaal says it’s striking any increase in the number of calls and chats mirrored any worsening of the pandemic. Fear dominated conversations during the first three months of the pandemic (March to May).  People were worried about the pandemic and the threat to their health.  Volunteers fielded many practical questions too like “Where can I get tested?”.  People were afraid of the pandemic because it was new. Volunteers also noticed the increased pressure on human relations now the kids were home from school.

However, throughout the past year, the main issue has been loneliness.  As activities were halted many people hardly had any human contacts. It’s especially singles and people with a limited number of friends who struggled. It affected old and young alike.

30% of calls were made by often lonely over 60s.  Whereas the helpline is used to calls from seniors who have difficulty getting about now active seniors now also joined the queue. They missed their contacts in the associations they are active in and seeing the grandkids.

Over 9,000 calls involved youngsters under 25.  The figure is up 56% on the year! Among teenagers the rise was 70%. Youngsters missed their friends so much Tele-Onthaal even had to open a new chat channel to accommodate the numbers.

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