8 May 2019
Source: Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) Peer Support Line is marking its two-year anniversary this week, with the Association revealing that volunteers have taken a total of 321 calls, and provided 6673 minutes of listening time, since the initiative launched on 3 May 2017.
The Peer Support Line was created to meet needs identified in the AOP’s 2016 health and wellbeing research. It is open to anyone who feels they are struggling, or simply having a bad day, and would like to talk confidentially. A support line volunteer explained: “No problem is too big or too small – if it concerns you then we want to listen… We sometimes signpost callers to the AOP legal or employment services for advice, and then spend the rest of the call, which is as long as they want, empathising with their situation. For many callers this is so valuable, just talking to someone who understands.”
“Nobody is going to judge or criticise you. We are open-minded and ready to listen, so you have nothing to lose,” she added.
The listening service is open to individuals at any point in their optical career. On average 81% of calls are from optometrists, 10% from newly-qualified optometrists and 9% from undergraduate students and pre-reg optometrists. April and October are historically the busiest months.
Henrietta Alderman, Chief Executive of the AOP, took the opportunity to thank the volunteers who make the service possible. “The Peer Support Line is a testament to the dedication of our volunteers who give up their time to make sure the service runs 365 days a year. We know that simply voicing concerns to an understanding peer can often bring a sense of release to callers. Our volunteers, who come from the optical sector themselves and who understand the pressures of day-to-day practice, are an amazing comfort to so many,” she said.
To celebrate the Peer Support Line’s anniversary, qualified AOP members will receive an information sticker in their May edition of Optometry Today. Practitioners can share their placement of the sticker using #AnEarForAnOptic.
The Peer Support Line can be reached by calling, 0800 870 8401. Calls will be answered 24 hours a day, by an external answering service, with volunteers on duty to return calls between 8am and 8pm.