Numerous organisations have stepped up to provide practical help to people who are voluntarily self-isolating, either due to their own health condition, or because they have symptoms which cause them concern.

But advice services are also making moves to support people who may be struggling emotionally with anxieties created by the rapid changes in society.

Social distancing means that self-help groups and face-to-face support are no longer an option, so locally-based charities are offering alternatives to those who want a friendly ear when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Befriending Lewis and Harris has suspended all face-to-face befriending visits, but have replaced them with telephone befriending for over 200 people across Lewis and Harris who are already in touch with their network.

With additional people feeling under strain, they are also establishing a befriending taskforce of staff and volunteers to fill any gaps and support people who cannot access help in their own community for any reason.

A Befriending spokesperson said: “We are connecting people we support with the aid services already set up in their area, so that support to receive groceries and prescriptions can be completed. We have co-ordinated it in this way so that, even in this time of uncertainty, people we support can enjoy new connections with people local to them, with the hope that these connections will flourish and have benefit long-term, which is what befriending is all about!”

Meanwhile Samaritans of the Western Isles has suspended their offer of face-to-face support at their premises on Cromwell Street in Stornoway, but are assuring people that their service to the island is still very much available.

A spokesman said today (Monday 23 March): “We would like to assure the island population that, if things are troubling them, Samaritans are there as they are always there.

“Our external door will continue to be open on Friday afternoons and people are welcome to come in and give us a phone number. They will then be called back by the person who they saw at the door, immediately.

“We can still be Samaritans, but we have had to change our methodology. We also remain part of the national organisation and will be continuing to take calls from all over the UK from our Stornoway office on the usual rota system.”

  • You can get access to telephone befriending via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Call Samaritans free from any phone on 116 123 or on the local call charge number 0330 094 5717.