I am writing as the Coordinator of the Community Chaplaincy Listening Service in NHS Fife. This is a national programme run across all health boards in Scotland delivered by Spiritual Care Departments, as a means of offering Spiritual Care in Primary Health Care settings in the local community.
- Do you need to talk?
- Are things getting you down?
- A relationship broken down
- Struggling with loss or illness?
- Life making no sense?
At a time when fewer people have church or faith connections, people increasingly find it hard to know where to go with issues like these. They go to the GP because they are hurting but the GP often knows that the problem is not a physical one which they can treat, but an emotional one and so they can refer to this Listening Service where individuals are enabled to explore the kind of issues named above.
People do need to talk. It is not uncommon for an individual to say at the end of the session, ‘Thank you so much, that has been so helpful.’ when the Listener feels they have done very little – just listened! Of course, they have created a welcoming, non- judgemental, safe space, where the individual felt safe to share their story, their struggles and anxieties and where they could explore the questions they were living with. Sadly, many people today have fewer friends who they trust to share with in this way and just don’t know where to go when needing this kind of help – so they go to the GP who struggles to find the time to listen.
The age range of the people using the service varies greatly from teenagers to the very elderly.
In terms of the elderly, the issues many bring are those to do with the accumulated losses of life, bereavements, loss of health and independence, adjusting to ongoing physical limitations and isolation and loneliness.
Our Listeners are skilled volunteers who offer up to – minute sessions – they don’t counsel – they listen and often this is all the individual needs. In training we say, ‘ There is not a problem to be fixed but an individual to accompany.’
The availability of the service does vary across the country as it is dependent upon each health board having the capacity to train and support experienced volunteers to do this work.