Maria is 51 and lives in Stirling, Central Scotland.
In February 2020, Maria had to flee her home to escape an abusive relationship. She left with nothing. Placed into temporary emergency accommodation, Maria was alone and frightened.
Shortly after, the coronavirus pandemic hit Britain, and Maria’s situation got worse. The government asked her to shield due to her ongoing complications with COPD, which meant she was now unable to leave her bedsit. With the pressures and difficulties on the NHS, Maria was unable to change to a new GP practice, which meant that all of her appointments and her medication were being sent to the area she’d had to escape from. Alone and struggling to cope, her mental health began to deteriorate.
“This was a terrifying time for me. I need weekly treatment and medication for my COPD and for my mental health issues. The fear of the pandemic coupled with the recent changes to my circumstances meant I was in very bad place and at times I wanted to end my life.”
Thankfully, the local council put Maria in touch with Royal Voluntary Service who were able to help. Volunteer Lesley met with Maria and they had a chat about everything she needed and together they worked out a way through the difficulties.
“Lesley picks up my prescriptions each week and brings my medication to me. I don’t know what I’d have done without her. It’s so comforting to know that someone is thinking of me and that there is someone to help.”
As well as the practicalities of having her medication delivered, Maria found Lesley’s visits a great source of comfort. Due to coronavirus restrictions and her own personal situation, Maria was cut off from her friends and her sons when she had to leave her home. Lesley’s visits became the only human interaction available. With no way of contacting anyone, Maria was feeling more and more isolated.
“When she bring my prescriptions, Lesley stays for a quick chat and it makes me so happy. My situation, along with the pandemic, left me totally isolated, and chatting to Lesley has meant the world to me. She’s also brought me magazines and books sometimes, and that is such a lovely thing to do.”
Later, Lesley arranged for Maria to be included in Royal Voluntary Service’s Check In and Chat programme.
“I also had another female volunteer from Royal Voluntary Service call me once a week for five months. This was just to have a chat and check in to see how I was coping. The calls made me feel brilliant – just knowing that there was someone out there showing an interest in me and checking I was ok.”
Martin, a Royal Voluntary Service Manager in the area, also made regular calls to Maria to check if she needed anything to support her with her mental health issues.
“That really lifted my spirits. Martin organised an iPad for me and Lesley set it up so I could use it. Before that, I didn’t have any way of contacting my sons or my friends people because I had to leave my home so quickly. My sons are 27, 24 and 18 and I couldn’t see them because I was shielding. I hadn’t seen them for six months which was very difficult, but now I can Facetime them thanks to Royal Voluntary Service, and it makes such a difference.”
With her mental health struggles, Maria says it would have been really easy for her to go downhill and feel suicidal again.
“Royal Voluntary Service has really lifted my spirits. When you’re on your own and everything has been taken away apart from the clothes you’re standing in, life does not feel like it’s worth living. Royal Voluntary Service has given me my life back.”
Along with the support she received during the initial national lockdown, Royal Voluntary Service have also been able to offer Maria a lifeline for the future:
“I’m due to have an operation on my knee in the next few months, and Royal Voluntary Service have already said they’ll be on hand to support me with that too. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders knowing that someone is there for me.”
Reflecting on the struggles of the past year and how things have changes for the better, Maria says:
“Lesley has been essential to me. If I need anything, she will help. I don’t usually ask, but just knowing that she’s there if I need her is a big comfort. It means everything.”
Names have been changed to protect identities.