Connex Participant – Katie

Katie was referred to us early January 2022, she lives with her 2 daughters and lacks confidence due to mental abuse during her marriage. She says she is a binge drinker due to anxiety and depression and won’t answer the phone to unknown numbers.

Before we were able to make contact we sent a message agreeing a time for an initial call, this meant that Katie was prepared for the call and able to pick up. We also agreed via text that if her anxiety got the better of her and she was unable to physically pick up the phone we would keep trying.

During the initial phone call, although notably shaken Katie was very open and honest on the phone. She really wanted to get out and about again but didn’t know how to get over the massive hurdles that she faced. She told us about her love of upcycling and crafting. We spoke about small steps back to community involvement but this seemed so far off as her anxiety has kept her in the house for such a long time. We referred her to the Friendship call project and again agreed procedures with her so she knew in the first instance who would be calling. We also offered her the assistance of our Making Our Money Go Further & Energy Know How projects, making sure that procedures were in place in an effort to reduce anxiety and distress. As the initial call came to a conclusion Katie was already sounding more confident and was happy accepting help.

Our Volunteer has established contact and called Katie at an agreed time each week. She has gone from strength to strength, she is now answering the phone to unknown numbers and getting the help she needs. Even after 1 week the difference was remarkable, it was like talking to a totally different person. Our volunteer has helped her through some tough situations by just listening. Katie recently had a massive panic attack in the supermarket but the help and support she received this just became a minor setback. Katie has received help from our other projects and now feels less worried about her financial situation and better equipped to manage.

Moving forward Katie has now found a friend who goes for walks with her. She has talked about a past love of open water swimming and is looking into this as something else she can do.

The transformation has been unbelievable, from a frightened, anxious, worried & isolated individual this lady is finding her wings, dusting off her crown and is ready to face the world head on once more.

Friendship Calls Participant – Jack

Jack has been a regular on the calls for almost 12 months now, he lives with mental health and physical pain, he does have some contact with family but nobody who he can just chat to. When Jack initially came to us he was attending an introduction to anxiety class and hoping to be able to do more in the community in the future.

John started on weekly calls but as he has started to get out a little he now checks in with his regular volunteer once a fortnight. They get on amazing as in the past the volunteer has had his own mental health issues so he is able to understand and show empathy and understanding. When they chat, they talk about many things and often put the world to rights. Jack really likes current affairs and likes to watch various news programmes which he likes to discuss. He likes that he can get different views on different situations and likes to stay open minded about things.

John is slowly starting to get out more now and goes on walks with his dog and sometimes with his sister, his OCD is improving and anxiety reducing, he says himself that the calls have been a lifeline and he really hopes that in the not too distant future he won’t require the calls. He says he will miss the volunteer but thinks it’s a step forward for him to not be in the house as much.

Friendship Calls: How Many Calls Would You Like To Make?

We always appreciate our volunteers whether they make 1 call or 6 a week, every call is providing a lifeline for a participant that is lonely or isolated.

Recently a new volunteer came forward, she was very enthusiastic and asked for 5 calls on week one! We did want to start her off lower so we agreed to 2 calls to see how she got on, by 11am on Monday she had made the calls and sent through her logs, said she absolutely loved it and could she please take on some more. This happened to be perfect timing as one of our other volunteers had taken ill and was unable to make their calls that week, so another 3 calls were added.

Since that first week Fiona has gone from strength to strength, she loves dedicating her time to the calls and has said it has in fact made her a better person, she told me the other day that her daughter had told her that mummy was a nicer person now she was volunteering and calling people. Fiona has two children and finds herself at a loss during the day, she says this has given her a new sense of purpose and she has made many friends during the calls that have helped her more than she can say.

Fiona now makes up to 15 calls a week, including one skype call. She can be on the phone for hours at a time, we do check in with her often to ensure that that number of calls is still enjoyable and do-able. She says she will certainly shout up if anything changes, right now she is just happy to be making a difference.

Friendship Calls: Much More Than Just A Call

Whilst we are very clear with those that refer to us, and to the participants themselves, that the service we offer is a Friendship Call. A friendly voice and a listening ear, we are more than aware that our volunteers and staff go above and beyond to enable us to provide the amazing service that we do.

We currently have two ladies receiving regular calls from Volunteers, both unfortunately have a diagnosis of cancer. Our two volunteers have stayed with these ladies throughout their ups and downs and provided that light relief that the ladies need, a reliable, non-judgemental conversation. The volunteers and the ladies are proving to be an inspiration and just goes to prove we are so much more than just a call.

We as a service check in on our Volunteers often as we know that these are not easy calls to make sometimes.

Friendship Calls Participant – Margaret

Margaret was referred to the friendship calls 4th January 2022 by Social Prescribing. The link worker informed that she had never managed to talk with Margaret as she would not engage. Margaret is taken care of by her husband, who is now at his wits end, as Margaret has taken herself off to bed and become bed bound. She refuses to engage with anyone including her own children when they come to visit.

Jane arranged to contact Margaret’s husband for an initial chat to see whether the friendship call service would be of any use to Margaret and whether she would engage or not. Her husband gave Jane her mobile number and a time and date was arranged for Jane to contact Margaret for an initial chat. Jane called Margaret and at first, she was reluctant to engage, however, Jane did manage to get her talking about her time working in a library, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Jane asked Margaret if she would be happy to take a call once a week from a volunteer just for some company and a friendly chat and she agreed. Margaret was placed with volunteer Sue, and Sue made arrangements with Margaret’s husband on the best time to call. Sue and Margaret are getting along fantastically now, and Sue has been calling Margaret for the last 4 weeks now and they are having great chats, with Sue regularly putting in reports that Margaret is really engaging and that they chat about all sorts of things.

Friendship Calls Participant – Bella

Bella was referred to the friendship calls project on 25th January 2022 by one of the senior clinic nurses and Ferham clinic. Bella suffers with paranoid schizophrenia with hallucinations about spiders and shadows. She also suffers with social anxiety and cannot venture out alone so always has a friend that needs to go with her. Jane did the original assessment and Bella was unsure as to whether the friendship calls service would benefit her as she felt that no one would understand her condition.

After discussion with volunteer Donna, it was agreed that Donna would call Bella once a week to see how things progressed. Donna has the experience to be able to ensure that Bella does not wander out of the boundaries of the service as she did start to ring Jane and leaving numerous messages after hours for someone to ring her back. Jane explained that the service was not a support nor advice service and that the volunteer’s phone number cannot be shared with her and that she would only be getting one call a week. This has now settled down, and Donna and Bella have reached an understanding with Bella really starting to open up and chat to Donna on their weekly calls. Donna has been calling Bella regularly now for the last 4 weeks.

Friendship Calls Participant – Vera

Vera has been a recipient of the friendship calls since October 2020. Vera is a lovely lady, who lives alone in council accommodation. Lockdown hit her hard as she is a very social person, but found herself shielding and also suffering anxiety about the situation. Although Vera is retired, she often visited Gambia 2 to 3 times a year taking gifts for the children out there, with Covid this has stopped. She will now make her last visit later this year, this will be her first trip back in over 2 years. Vera checks in regular on her neighbours in her block, but obviously the face to face contact stopped.

Vera really appreciated the calls and was able to access help through housing for some problems she had, she had weekly calls where she was able to sound off if needed but more importantly have a laugh and a joke with the volunteer.

More recently Vera has been able to go out more and has attended RotherFed tenant voice events, these are great for her, as she can chat to her heart’s content. She is getting out again and forging new friendships. Vera contacted us recently to say that now her confidence had returned and her anxiety reduced she felt she no longer needed the weekly calls as she was out of the flat a lot more, coming to the coffee mornings and being able to socialise has given her this re-found confidence. Vera keeps in touch as she is now more involved in tenant voice events, where she sings the praises of RotherFed and its staff (especially Carrie who Vera has a soft spot for)! It’s great to see her back to what we imagine to be the Vera that was, pre Covid. A beautiful social butterfly with a heart of gold.

Connex Participant – Millie

Millie was originally referred to Rotherfed back in July 2021. Millie is a lady in her 50’s who has various clinical issues, including problems with her hip, she uses a walking stick. She lives with her husband who supports her as best he can. Millie is also under mental health as she has problems regulating her emotions (a form of emotionally unstable personality disorder).  She was put onto the friendship calls and was placed with a volunteer named Christine. The two of them got on really well and Millie’s confidence really started to improve, and her emotions started to stabilise. Christine then had to stop volunteering due to ill health and Jane took over until another suitable volunteer could be placed with Millie once her mental health improved.

Rotherfed started doing some coffee mornings at Thrybergh Parish Hall. Millie was invited and she came along to her first one on 9th November. She was very nervous and had to be met at the door and her husband had to wait in the car park in the car throughout the session in case Millie felt overwhelmed. Millie was placed at a table with some other Connex people who had a lot of confidence, and this put Millie at ease. She was constantly checked on during the session by staff to ensure that she was okay. This had a tremendous impact on her self-esteem and her confidence so much so that she decided to attend more events like this.

Millie has attended three events now and is comfortable walking into the room on her own and sitting chatting with those that she has previously met and strong friendships are now being forged. Millie’s husband no longer has to wait outside and just drops her off and comes back later to fetch her. Millie has asked to be invited to all of RotherFed’s events and is also willing in time to become a council tenant volunteer as well. She has also now been placed with another volunteer and they are getting on really well.

Friendship Call Participant – Millie

Millie was originally referred to us in July 2021 from RDash. Millie is a lovely lady in her fifties who lives with her husband. Millie as numerous clinical issues and is under the mental health team as she cannot regulate her emotions. Millie was placed with volunteer Christina, and they started to build up a great rapport. Unfortunately, Christina has recently fallen ill and due to Millie’s complex mental health, she was unable to be placed with a volunteer who would be able to chat to Millie in a way that can regulate her emotions and prevent her from becoming attached. Jane – one of the volunteer coordinators picked up the case and has been calling Millie on a regular basis. Millie then started to ring Jane whenever she needed someone to talk to and this was becoming a problem. Jane had to inform Millie that the service that we provided was not to support individuals and that there were profession boundaries that needed to be adhered to and that she could not keep calling. Millie advised that she would like to attend the buffet lunch that was held on 28th January, and Millie asked if Jane could support her throughout the event. It was again explained to Millie that this was not possible, however, she could be met at the door and introduced to other people. Millie arrived at the venue, was met by Jane then after introductions, and was sat at a table with 3 other people that she did not know. When it was time to leave, Millie informed Jane that she had had such a good time and that she was so glad that she had been given the opportunity of meeting some new people. Arrangements were made to call the following week, but after this call, Millie will be placed with another volunteer who has extensive experience in this field, she is very happy to do it as her confidence levels have now started increasing.

Friendship Calls Participant – Jayne

Jayne was referred to our project in December 2020, she was really struggling after losing her mum unexpectedly to Covid-19 in May of that year. Jayne was unable to attend her mum’s funeral due to own ill health and because she was shielding.

Jayne spoke with different volunteers but it was when she spoke with one of our students that SKYPE was mentioned. This was facilitated and the student volunteer set up a private email account for the specific purpose of calling Jayne.  Calls often lasted over an hour with lots of laughter. Unfortunately when the student left to go to Uni we had to put Jayne back to the calls only, whilst we found another volunteer who was comfortable with video calling.

Recently a new volunteer came through and she really wanted to take on the SKYPE call with Jayne, on the first call they spoke via video for over 2 hours. I did question this with the volunteer and she said it had felt like 2 minutes as the conversation and the laughs had flowed and the two of them felt like they had been friends forever. They have so much in common, especially the love of craft. Jayne is currently helping the volunteer get back into painting by offering help and advice on her work, being able to share on screen makes it all the better,  it really  is a two way thing and is improving the mental health of all parties. Next week is a paint along with Jayne advising the volunteers how to get best use out of oil paints she received for Christmas.