The sight loss advice line run by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is set to receive a 240 per cent increase in calls about emotional support between 2016 and 2019.
With ten people a day beginning to lose their sight in Scotland alone, RNIB is raising awareness of its flagship Sight Loss Advice Service, which provides practical and emotional support over the phone, face-to-face at many hospital eye clinics, or through online information.
Around 170,000 people in Scotland are currently living with significant sight loss, and two million in the UK. The numbers are likely to increase because western countries are home to an ageing population and are experiencing a rise in sight-threatening health conditions such as diabetes.
Statistics show that calls to the RNIB line concerning emotional support across the UK are set to increase from 2,021 calls in 2016 to a projected 7,000 in 2019. Questions around emotional support are one of the top three reasons why people spoke to the advice line in 2018 and are expected to remain so in 2019.
David Clarke, RNIB director of services, said: “Living with sight loss can have a massive impact on your life and we believe everyone should have access to emotional support. We know that when people get the support they need, they can rebuild their resilience and a sense of optimism about the future.
“It’s not just the big, life-changing aspects that people need support with. Sometimes it’s the smaller, everyday things that stop people in their tracks or prevent them from living the life they want to. These questions or fears can chip away at your emotional wellbeing if you don’t tackle them and RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service can help with this.
“Our Sight Loss Advisers and Eye Clinic Liaison Officers receive specialist training on living with sight loss, and many have personal experience of sight loss themselves.”
Mhairi Thurston, a Dundee academic who lost her own sight at the age of 40, said: "It can be a very difficult transition and it's important to really process what's happened to you. But it's not the end of the world, because it does get better. But it needs time. It's ok not to be ok. You need to talk to somebody who understands sight loss because there are particular difficulties and challenges that you face going into that world of sight loss that need specialist help.
"I think if you get to the point where you think you can't move forward with your life then that is the point you should go and talk with somebody who can help you, whether that be face-to-face, telephone, online or in a group."
RNIB’s Helpline received almost 250,000 calls during 2018. Calls to RNIB range from topics such emotional support to employment, benefits, education, legal rights and technology.
Get in touch with the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk/advice for more information.