To be told you are losing - or will lose - your sight must be one of the most distressing things imaginable to hear. But every day, ten people across the UK begin to lose their vision.
A one-day conference in Ayr today will discuss the vital need for emotional as well as practical support for those diagnosed with sight-threatening conditions.
Research by RNIB has found that people with sight loss are nearly three times more likely to report feeling depressed, feeling constantly under strain, losing confidence and believing they are useless.
“During these times, many people find it helpful to talk through their feelings with someone outside their usual circle of family and friends,” says James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland. “The impact of sight loss can be devastating, and people experiencing it to whatever degree, may be worried about its implications for their future and the changes they are facing.”
RNIB’s ‘Need to Talk’ project now offers confidence-building and a counselling support service to people who live in the more isolated parts of western Scotland - Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway , Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Arran, Argyllshire and the Western Isles. The European Union-funded project also operates in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland.
“Need to Talk supports adults of all ages, as well as children and young people over eleven, in their own home, in their own way,” said Mr Adams. “We give reassurance to those with sight loss who are in emotional distress and socially isolated, especially those living in rural locations.” The services are also available for family and friends.
Dr Mhairi Thurston, an academic with Abertay University in Dundee, welcomes the initiative, having lost her own sight to the condition retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 40. Her experience prompted her to pursue a career studying the social and emotional effects of sight loss.
"There is no doubt that losing your sight impacts on your mental health. In fact, many people compare it to experiencing bereavement," she said. "Only a small percentage of people losing their sight will be offered counselling, despite the devastating effect it can have on people's lives.
"Without proper support, people can rapidly lose confidence, leading to isolation, anxiety, depression and feelings of anger and confusion. Having appropriate support can make a huge difference to someone’s life."
Need to Talk is funded the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
* If you, or someone you know, is losing their sight and would like to talk about their feelings, the free Need to Talk service is available. To find out more about ‘Need to Talk’, phone 0303 123 9999, email [email protected] . Or visit www.rnib.org.uk/needtotalk.