Free emotional support for those affected by sight loss

Ken Carson, from Bangor, who reached out to RNIB for emotional support to help come to terms with his sight loss.
Ken Carson, from Bangor, who reached out to RNIB for emotional support to help come to terms with his sight loss.

A project offering free emotional support and confidence building for people affected by sight loss is available in the east Antrim area.

The ‘Need to Talk’ project was officially launched on October 12 (World Sight Day) by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in partnership with Fighting Blindness (Ireland).

It offers a free cross-border counselling service and confidence building program for people affected by sight loss who live in Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland and western Scotland.

Many people face sight loss without help. Most people do not get any emotional support to help them adjust to losing sight and only a small proportion of people receive the practical support they need (My Voice, RNIB Report, 2015).

Larne woman, Sharon McClure works in the RNIB Community Access team and has spent many years supporting people with sight loss to access local community services. “For anyone experiencing or affected by sight loss, the impact can be devastating," she said.

Pictured at the launch are Amanda Hawkins, RNIB; Paul Sheridan, SEUPB and John Delaney, Fighting Blindness.

Pictured at the launch are Amanda Hawkins, RNIB; Paul Sheridan, SEUPB and John Delaney, Fighting Blindness.

"They may be worried about the future and the changes they are facing. During these times, many people find it helpful to talk through their feelings with someone outside their usual circle of family and friends.

"‘Need to Talk’ will support people with sight loss living in the Antrim area, who are in emotional distress, socially isolated and includes those living in rural locations.”

The ‘Need to Talk’ project will support adults of all ages, including children and young people aged eleven and over, through confidential online and telephone counselling, delivered by trained counsellors. People can access the support they need, via their laptop, tablet or phone - in their own home, in their own way.

Ken Carson, (52) from Bangor has optic neuritis, a condition which is causing progressive deterioration to his sight. Ken says, “I’ve always known my eyesight would deteriorate gradually, but when reality kicked in that I was really losing my eyesight, I became quite low and depressed. I wasn’t fit for work, and was off for eight months. I was in a dark place.”

Ken reached out to RNIB and was invited to attend a confidence building program, designed to help people cope with the challenges of living with sight loss.

“I’ve been able to look ahead positively now and do what I can with the eyesight I have left. I’ve actually found I’ve had opportunities open up to do new things because of my sight loss. We need to not bottle things up, thinking that talking about our feelings and struggles or reaching out for help is a weakness.”

‘Need to Talk’ is a five year project (2017-2021) which secured €1.8 million via the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme and is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

To find out more about the counselling and confidence building services in your area phone the ‘Need to Talk’ team on 0303 123 9999 or visit rnib.org.uk/needtotalk