Published in InterAction 80, Summer 2012
Action for M.E.’s Support Line marks its 10th anniversary this year.
Offering confidential support, understanding and information to anyone affected by M.E., Action for M.E.’s Support Line opened in 2002. Since then it has gone from strength to strength.
The line was originally staffed by a team of dedicated volunteers. In 2010 Action for M.E. secured funding to pay for Support Line staff, which enabled us to extend the line’s opening times.
Who uses the line?
The line received 1,800 calls in 2011 – this is double the number received in 2010 – and a number of these were repeat callers. The top three reasons people called were: emotional support, requesting medical information and wanting to know more about symptoms. While Support Line staff are not medically trained, they offer information and signpost callers to other areas for help.
Some callers are newly diagnosed while others have had the illness for 20 years. Some are looking for information or signposting.
Others need a safe space and a person to talk to, without feeling judged, to help them find a way forward. Some people, as a result of being ill, may have become isolated, needing support with their relationships, work and finances.
When the Support Line is closed, we direct people to 24-hour befriending service, the Samaritans. We also often signpost carers to the charity Carers UK.
Now email too
The team now also provides email support to anyone affected by M.E., offering information about the illness, details of local services and emotional support. Emails are replied to within seven working days following a procedure based on models of good practice.
Email support has been particularly useful for people with difficulty communicating by telephone. It can be very helpful to receive information and advice in a form that can be saved and referred to a bit at a time.
More than 250 emails were received last year, and the numbers of emails has steadily increased each month since the service opened in November 2010.
The Support Line team come from a range of professional social care backgrounds. They receive training in listening and counselling skills, M.E. and the support services and resources available. Rather than offering direct advice they provide information and options that allow callers to make their own decisions regarding where to go next.
Staff receive regular supervision, giving them the opportunity to reflect on and improve their skills.
What our callers say
The Support Line has received overwhelmingly positive support for its services. Here are just a few of the comments sent to us:
- “Thank you so much for your excellent reply to my cry for help. We have been let down so many times by the NHS that I didn’t expect such a detailed and helpful reply from Action for M.E. I am pleasantly surprised and really encouraged. So thank you.” CL
- “The service reduces isolation: there is someone at the end of the phone to talk to.” Janet Lyke
- “You are a star –that is all I needed and more. Your information has led to me being referred to a specialist and I am well on the way to a diagnosis after years of frustration.” LS
- “Staff appear to be keen on helping and finding information to answer my questions. Very helpful and professional.” Christiane Crocker
- “Thank you once again. It is VERY much appreciated... this means so much to me. I have felt as though I am struggling on my own and this has given me the will to keep trying.” CW
- “I don’t know where I would be without it.” Yvonne Ferns
The Support Line team aim to continue offering a high-quality service on the telephone and by email. We rely on funding from a number of charitable trusts to do this.
Feedback from service users is essential: it helps us improve the way we work and secure future funding. If you have used the Support Line services and would like to comment on them, please email us.
Tel: 0845 790 9090
Tel: 0808 808 7777
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