WHERE do you turn if you feel like there is no-one you can talk to, or if you feel like all avenues of help are shut off?

At a time when routines are ripped to pieces and services are reduced by disruption, states of anxiety, stress and depression are deepening.

But 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can pick up a phone and speak to someone who is guaranteed to care and listen to your story.

Colchester Samaritans, which is made up of around 160 volunteers, is launching its Talk To Us campaign, to raise awareness of its round-the-clock emotional support services.

Taking calls from across the country, a volunteer picks up the phone every few seconds.

Since lockdown in March, the charity estimates one in three callers talk about coronavirus, with many feeling more anxious and distressed than ever before.

Volunteer surveys, which gathered more than 3,000 responses, found the most common concerns related to coronavirus are around loneliness, isolation, mental health and illness, finances and unemployment.

Gaynor Bell, branch director, said: “Our volunteers have been working day and night to be there for anyone who is struggling in these uncertain and challenging times.

“Lockdown restrictions have had a huge impact on every day life for many people, as we’ve been hearing over the past few months, and our volunteers have been a much-needed source of support for those whose networks haven’t been available during the pandemic.

“Our outreach work and fundraising activity remains on hold across the country until further notice, but we hope that the public can continue to support us in any way they can, to ensure our volunteers can continue to be there for anyone struggling to cope.”

She added: “I think the problem is exacerbated with what’s going on, but we get a call every few seconds, and that’s before lockdown, during Covid and after lockdown.

“Covid has created isolation, whether that is from families or social circles, or economically.

“People are more anxious and distressed than they were before, and that can be due to jobs, money, family, or health, but all contribute to stress and anxiety.”

The work of the Samaritans has never been more vital, with NHS services struggling due to the demands of the pandemic.

Mental health charities say they are concerned people may not be seeking help, despite suffering increased stress and anxiety during the crisis.

Last April, NHS statistics show 810 people were referred to psychological therapies for depression and anxiety in the NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group area.

But the latest figures show this April, the number had fallen to just 355.

There was also a drop in the number of patients who began therapy during the month – 245 compared to 515.

Danielle Hamm, associate director for campaigns and policy at charity Rethink Mental Illness, said the figures reflected the “significant disruption” to mental health services during the initial pandemic response.

Research carried out by the charity in April found 79 per cent of people with pre-existing mental illnesses said their mental health had deteriorated because of the pandemic, while 42 per cent said this was the case because they were getting less support.

Ms Hamm said: “We’re very concerned to see the number of referrals dropping so rapidly at a time when a significant number of people reported a deterioration in their mental health, combined with an increase in waiting times for those who have sought help.”

“In Colchester we have a total of 160 volunteers, about 100 listening volunteers – those people who support callers – and the other 40 to 50 are support volunteers, people help us to keep going by raising money those sort things.

“The key thing for Samaritans is we don’t give advice, from our perspective we sit alongside the caller and try and help them explore what options are and make a decision on how to go forward.

“Because we are confidential, anonymous, people don’t give their names, people can talk about literally anything without being judged.

“They have someone on the end of a phone they can say things they might not be able to say to a family member or a friend.

“Certainly where people have self isolated, when they haven’t got anybody to talk to,

To help Colchester Samaritans continue its good work, visit


To call one of the charity’s volunteers, free of charge, dial 116 123.

Gaynor said: “Because people don’t give their names, they can talk to us about literally anything without being judged.”