The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Richmond Foundation launches new helpline for people who need mental health support

Shona Berger Thursday, 9 April 2020, 09:43 Last update: about 3 months ago

Amid the coronavirus outbreak in Malta, a number of helplines were launched in order to help people who need emotional and mental health support, either because they feel lonely or just because they need someone to talk to.

During the month of March, the health authorities launched a number of measures to safeguard the citizens of Malta by reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus. However, such measures led many people, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, to stay at home and and only head outside if it was absolutely necessary.

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Spending a long period of time at home may lead to a number of mental health problems, especially if one lives alone.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne, in a press conference, announced that the Richmond Foundation launched a new helpline (1770) which is available for free to anyone experiencing mental health difficulties.

Tracey Zammit, the Manager for Community Support Services at the Richmond Foundation told the Malta Independent that "as from 9 April, the 1770 helpline has started operating 24/7 including on public holidays and weekends."

This helpline "is manned by professionals who are able to support and guide callers by listening, providing emotional support and guidance as necessary," Zammit said.

She added that "when needed, the people who call are further referred to other professionals as deemed appropriate."

The calls being made to this helpline are "from people requesting different kinds of support. This might include support in containing their anxiety or new state of being lonely."

She said that "adapting to a new kind of lifestyle can be very difficult and is also an issue as most people are used to a particular routine. Thus, it is not as simple to adjust to a completely new one."

"We try to offer as much emotional support as needed and we also try to validate people's feelings as everyone has a right to feel what they are feeling." Zammit said that "when possible, we give practical tips to help them ease their anxiety or fear, such as making sure they are using all possible means of communication with their loved ones, and we also reassure people that the best we can do at this point is take the necessary precautions, keep safe at all times and to keep in mind that certain factors are beyond our control."

Launching such a helpline can be very important during these extraordinary times. Zammit said that "taking care of one's mental health is always important. Being presented with a new situation such as COVID-19 often causes anxiety, fear, irrational thoughts and loneliness amongst other factors."

She added that "these factors might further deteriorate one's mental health, thus more help than ever is needed during such difficult times in order to ensure that a person receives the necessary support in time without having to suffer any consequences in the future."

Up till now they have received around 30 to 35 calls from people of all ages, however Zammit said she "believes that the need is bigger than what we have seen so far, thus we will see a spike in calls very soon."

"So far we received calls from elderly people, from people who are engaged in employment, people who live on their own, and others who had to self-isolate, thus they are separated from their families."

She explained that this situation has "touched many individuals on different levels - loneliness, fear, anxiety and lack of clarity for our future."

The Richmond Foundation's helpline can be reached by calling: 1770 


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