23rd October 2017 | The ‘Need to Talk’ service has been launched to provide emotional support affected by sight loss.
‘Need to Talk’ will offer a telephone support service to people who live in Dumfries and Galloway, North, South and East Ayrshire, Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Arran and Cumbrae, Argyll and Bute and Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles).
The European Union-funded project will also operate in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland.
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 (‘Living with Sight Loss’, RNIB and NatCen Social Research, 2015).
During these times, many people find it helpful to talk through their feelings with someone outside their usual circle of family and friends.
Campbell Chalmers, director of RNIB Scotland, said: “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.
“‘Need to Talk’ will support adults of all ages, including children and young people aged over eleven, in their own home, in their own way. We can give reassurance to those with sight loss who are in emotional distress and socially isolated, especially those living in rural locations.
“We are particularly delighted to be working in partnership with Fighting Blindness in the Republic of Ireland to deliver this project and we would like to acknowledge the INTERREG VA EU funding and the Special EU Programmes Body for their continued support.”
‘Need to Talk’ is a five-year project (2017-2021) and has secured €1.8 million via the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Welcoming the project, Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive Officer with the Special EU Programmes Body, said: "I am delighted that this innovative project has been awarded funding from the INTERREG VA programme. Having had the pleasure of meeting people who will benefit from this service, I know what a real and tangible contribution it will make to the lives of many people, who are experiencing varying degrees of sight loss.
"The cross-border project represents a unique partnership between leading sight loss charities based in Western Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland who, by working together, will be able to provide much needed support to people living in rural areas. This project will contribute to one of the objectives of the EU's INTERREG VA Programme- that of providing quality health and social care for people who are socially isolated."
Scottish academic Dr Mhairi Thurston welcomed 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.
“Many compare the impact of losing their sight to bereavement,” she said. “Every day in Scotland, ten people begin to lose their sight, but only a small percentage will be offered emotional support or counselling, despite the devastating effect it can have on people’s lives.
“Without emotional support, people can rapidly lose confidence, leading to isolation and potential mental health problems, often manifested as feelings of depression, anger and confusion. Having appropriate support can make a huge difference to a life.”