Loneliness and isolation are critical issues for visually impaired young people. We know that people affected by sight loss are more than twice as likely to have experienced difficulties with unhappiness or depression than the UK average. Despite this, only 17% of people experiencing sight loss are offered emotional support in relation to their deteriorating vision. It can have a devastating impact on their mental health, and as health services are stretched like never before, it can be difficult for visually impaired young people to know where to turn and get the help and advice they need.
We are extremely excited about the accessible text helpline we have launched, with our charity partner, SHOUT. This service will make a life-changing impact for thousands of visually impaired young people.
People like Maria, who has shared her story:
“I was 14 when I was diagnosed with my sight loss condition, retinal dystrophy. The day I was diagnosed was a bit of a blur, but what I do remember is wondering how I would explain this to my friends and family and feeling overwhelmingly scared to go back to school. What if my friends didn’t want to hang out with me anymore? How do I tell my teachers what I need? I just wanted to hide from the world.
My diagnosis took a toll on my mental health immediately and I developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I constantly checked things; everything had to have a place and if it didn’t then I would have to start the whole routine again. I started to become anxious towards bedtime which became distressing for me and my family. I live with anxiety to this day. My OCD reflected my need to control the things around me, when losing my sight at such a young age was something I couldn’t control.
When I was diagnosed, I felt there was nothing available to help me come to terms with losing my sight. If I had a service I could text, it would have helped me understand what I was going through and how it was normal to be feeling anxious. I believe communicating and having that reassurance would have made a big difference to my life. At the time of my diagnosis, there was lots of support for my family but not so much for me and I felt lost.
I’m 29 now, and there are challenges I still face as a visually impaired person, but I feel I have the right tools to handle these situations and if I am struggling, I know who I can reach out to. But I know there are so many young visually impaired people who don’t have that.
Having an accessible service like the text line would mean people like me can easily reach out to someone who understands what they’re going through and can support and reassure them. I would have really benefited from something like that as a young visually impaired person.”
With your support, we can make a difference to the way mental health services are accessed by visually impaired young people like Maria, changing the landscape for the better.
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