Phone lines open to offer listening ear

Confinement can bring a toll of emotional and mental concerns just as much as financial worries and telephone helplines can be a lifeline.

SOS Amitié (sos-amitie.com), the French equivalent of the UK’s Samaritans, has seen calls increase from 5,000 to 7,000 a day during confinement.

Its trained listeners are neutral and non-judgemental. “Our service is anonymous and confidential. Callers tell us they can say things to us they cannot tell anyone else,” a spokeswoman said. You can use online chat or email or call 09 72 39 40 50.

The charity has branches throughout France, 1,600 listeners and is open at all times.

It is seeking more volunteers.

SOS Help, the English-speaking equivalent in France, has had to reduce its service from eight to four hours a day because it can no longer use its premises. Its listeners have been receiving calls at home.

“Callers feel anxious about being in an unknown situation and are worried about the health and morale of loved ones they cannot see,” said chairwoman Christine Payne.

“We want people to know we are there for anyone who wishes to talk things through.” It is open 17:00-21:00 (usually 15:00-23:00) on 01 46 21 46 46

In normal times volunteers with Les Petits Frères des Pauvres mostly visit elderly people living alone. During confinement they instead keep in regular touch by telephone.

The charity has increased volunteers on its telephone helpline Solitud’écoute (08 00 47 47 88, every day 15:00 to 20:00).

A spokesperson said they have up to 150 calls a day: “Some­times people ring to ask for help with shopping, but usually they simply want to chat.
“It shows how vital it is for people on their own to have contact with others,” she said.

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