In support of mental health and people with psychological problems, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a pastoral care portal (Estonian: Hingeabiportaal) has been founded, led by the Estonian Council of Churches (Eesti Kirikute Nõukogu). A related helpline will soon start its work in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, building on the experience of a similar line operating during the emergency situation and aimed at those in care homes who felt isolated.
Vice President of the Council of Churches Meego Remmel told ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" that the public can get help on issues that developed during the emergency situation from the church council's portal (link in Estonian).
"Subjects which are close to people's hearts are anxiety, overall confusion, loneliness - but also existential questions like life and death and what comes after death," Remmel said.
Psychologists, medical workers, therapists, and clergies are all volunteering to give advice. All in all, there are 30 advisors involved in the helpline and portal at present, who in many cases have a great deal of experience.
"The Estonian Council of Churches' ethics and values working group has been collecting contact information of church psychologists, psychotherapists and counselors for many years. I am very glad that many of them accepted helping out as volunteers," Remmel said.
A previous pastoral care phoneline worked throughout the emergency situation (March 12-May 17-ed.); the line was meant for patients in care homes and hospitals who have a hard time without any socialization. 29 institutions joined up with the service, together with 20 advisers.
Care homes were both closed to visitors and were required to keep their residents on-site, throughout the emergency situation, leading to issues of isolation. Home will be allowed to open for visits from June 1. At present, it is up to individual homes whether they start accepting visitors or not.
Chief Chaplain at the Ministry of Social Affairs Ove Sander said that counseling and spiritual guidance over the phone will continue in a couple of weeks, and a wider circle can use it.
"One of our wishes was that it wouldn´t involve just listening, but rather, make use of professional telephone counselors who have pastoral training and the relevant special education," he said.
Rev. Sander added that if necessary, people who use the already-familiar emergency center telephone number, 1247, may also be directed to the soon-to-open pastoral care helpline.
"Just as the psychological/social helpline is interfaced with 1247, our pastoral telephone is given a separate number, and interfaces in exactly the same way as 1247. Volunteers who are on this general hotline can direct the calls in one direction or another, and they play a very crucial role," Rev. Sander said.
The number itself has yet to be unveiled.
Editor: Roberta Vaino