Published: 11:54, 24 September 2021
| Updated: 17:06, 18 October 2021
A mental health charity has had more calls for help since pandemic lockdowns ended than during.
The rate for Deal-based Talk It Out went up from 10 to 12 calls a week in January to 25 to 30 a week last month.
The pandemic was at its very worst in January with the highest amount of deaths in one month and the country was in another lockdown.
This August the last lockdown had been lifted for weeks, along with most other restrictions, and deaths and infections were far lower.*
The charity, now marking its 10th anniversary, says many people have found it difficult to come out of isolation.
Founder Tracy Carr said: "We have had a surge in demand since after the lockdowns.
"People have become anxious and not wanted to come out of their houses and meeting others has worried them.
"Those who were used to hugging each other are now afraid to in case they catch the disease."
Talk It Out was formed on September 8, 2011.
It started out with sessions of two hours a week and has now grown to serve those who need it every day
It says one major achievement has been preventing nearly all suicides among mentally distressed people who have used it.
Helper Kelly Evans said: "I believe there would have been so many more if we weren't here. A lot of people have been able to move up from the gutter to survival."
Like for everyone coronavirus and the resulting lockdowns were a unique experience for the charity with most face to face meetings having to stop and contact by telephone, videolink or writing only.
There was contact by virtual Zoom counselling sessions, and virtual chat on a Talk It Out web page.
People could also meet safely and socially distanced outdoors through one to one walks and the charity's Lost the Plot allotments.
When small groups were eventually allowed a marquee was set up for groups of six at St George's Church in Deal.
Talk It Out also delivered a total £18,500 in food parcels during the lockdowns, which particularly gave it weekly contact with the most vulnerable residents.
'Unhappy family members were trapped together during lockdown...'
Despite the charity's best efforts the emotional and mental stresses caused by coronavirus could not be avoided.
Ms Carr explains: "The biggest cause of anxiety for people during the lockdown was the isolation and for some telephone calls and emails weren't enough.
"Even for people not living alone there were problems if they were in unhappy families.
"Members were trapped together and couldn't take enough of a break from each other, for example children couldn't go out to see their friends.
"There ended up being a lot of relationship breakdowns.
"More men were contacting us for help as they were not going out to work and did not know if they had jobs to go back to."
One beneficiary of Talk It Out was Kelly Evans, one if its first users.
Miss Evans, 39, of Deal, now a helper in the group, had in 2011 suffered from violence from a boyfriend for four months.
That man was jailed for attacking her and there has been no contact between the two since.
But she explains she did not get the NHS mental health support she needed after suffering the trauma.
She now has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which she explains is lifelong but now easier to manage so is still also a user of Talk It Out.
'Talk It Out gave me back my life...'
She says: "I had an awful, traumatic violent relationship. The final straw was when I nearly died after he hit me over the head with a champagne bottle.
"I was in a very dark place and attempted suicide.
"I tried to get support from the NHS but it was not there soon enough, I was put on a long waiting list. It was then I found an advert for Talk It Out as it was starting out.
"That became the buffer until I got the full professional support I needed."
Miss Evans went to the group in its first ever month was able to open up about her feelings and get counselling.
She now says: "Talk It Out gave me back my life. If they weren't there I don't think I would have recovered."
Miss Evans now has a new partner and two children age two and 12 weeks.
With pandemic restrictions lifted Talk It Out now operates a drop-in centre at the Deal Ability base in the town's Victoria Road.
These are from Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 1pm and there are also evening sessions from 6pm to 8pm on the first Tuesday of every month.
*On January 1, 2021, there were 53,285 new reported cases of coronavirus and 613 new deaths. On August 1 there were 24,139 cases and 65 deaths.
For more information on Talk It Out visit talkitoutindeal.com