Medway and Kent will soon be among a handful of places in England to offer residents 24-hour confidential, emotional support, free of charge.
From 1 April, support from the helpline Mental Health Matters will be available round the clock in Medway and Kent on 0800 107 0160.
Previously the helpline was open in the evenings and at weekends but was closed in the daytime during the week.
Speaking of the improved service, Mark Reckless said:
“I hope the expansion of this service will provide residents in my constituency with the advice and support they need to cope in today’s current climate. Having spoken to many local people who have contacted me for help and assistance, I know this improved service will be of great benefit to many constituents who need a helping hand and confidential advice. This is an excellent addition to the wide range of support services offered to residents in Medway and I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making it happen.”
The increase in hours is being funded by mental health commissioners in Kent and Medway (the three primary care trusts and two local authorities) and reflects the success of Mental Health Matters in helping people who are distressed.
“Last year, the Mental Health Matters helpline in Kent and Medway received more than 10,000 calls,” said Lauretta Kavanagh, Director of Mental Health Commissioning for the Medway and Kent primary care trusts.
“People called about relationship problems, loneliness, stress, bereavement – the whole range of emotional distress.
“The team of highly trained and experienced support workers at the helpline use counselling skills to provide confidential emotional support and guidance. They also have details of local and national support services that people may find useful.”
Rose Collinson, Medway Council’s Director of Children and Adults, said: “I am delighted that by working with our partners we are able to provide this improved and much needed service to people in Medway and Kent.”
“Many people reach a moment in their lives when they badly need to speak about feelings they are struggling with and by making this helpline available round the clock, people will now be able to call when they need to.”
People can also live chat with a counsellor by email if they prefer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Heyes, from the voluntary organisation Mental Health Matters which runs the helpline and live chat email system, said: “In these uncertain times, it is often quite natural to feel anxious, apprehensive or just down. Job insecurity, debt, relationship problems, or emotional distress can all take a toll and, when this continues, it can start to impact on your health and mental wellbeing.
“Since it started in Kent and Medway more than two years ago, the helpline has provided successful interventions for people with problems such as low mood, emotional distress and stress. Clients say they feel ‘held’.”