The Association of Optometrists (AOP) today launches an important new service which offers peer-to-peer support by phone for those experiencing a difficult situation, stress or anxiety.
The AOP Peer Support Line provides a listening service for individuals at any stage of their career, and is designed specifically for the optical profession.
The service gives callers the opportunity to talk anonymously and in confidence to a fellow optical professional about an issue or stress they may be facing in their work or home life. Callers are not provided with advice but an empathetic peer, who understands the pressures of optical practice, will listen to their concerns and signpost sources of practical advice and information, where appropriate.
Chief Executive of the AOP, Henrietta Alderman, said: "The AOP Peer Support Line was borne out of findings from our 2016 research into the health and wellbeing of optometrists in the UK, and responds to the need for a different kind of support outside of our established legal, clinical or regulatory advice. In the research, more than half of the respondents reported that they frequently work to tight deadlines and 63% said they do not have enough time to balance work and family responsibilities. We developed this service to help alleviate the kinds of pressure felt by optical professionals and to strengthen the support network available in the sector.”
Optometrist and Chair of the Peer Support Line, Thurka Sivapalan, said: “The helpline is designed to help individuals gain relief and clarity over the situation that is affecting them – that first vital step often begins with talking about it. We know that practitioners can sometimes feel overwhelmed and I’m glad to be part of a service which addresses that – giving individuals a dedicated space to share those worries, unburden themselves and gain easy access to emotional support.”
Dr Rosie Allister, Manager of the Vetlife Helpline and researcher at the University of Edinburgh, provided training to the AOP’s volunteers. She explained: “Research shows us that talking through a problem alone can alleviate pressure and it can also give someone the perspective they need to navigate through a difficult situation that otherwise they may feel stuck in. The AOP Peer Support Line is a safe, non-judgemental place where callers can explore their issues, be listened to and be understood.”
Dr Allister added: “Those looking to use the service don’t need to have lots of problems or be at crisis point to pick up the phone – it’s there to help individuals and give them an outlet, no matter how small they think the issue is.”
The AOP Peer Support Line is a free-phone helpline, staffed by optical professionals – with the aim of providing callers with fast confidential access to trained volunteers who understand their working environment. Calls will be answered 24 hours a day by an external answering service, with volunteers on duty to return calls between 8am and 8pm.
More information about the service and a video introduction is available at www.aop.org.uk/peersupport
High resolution images are available via this link.
For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, SerenaBox@aop.org.uk or telephone 020 7549 2063.
Notes to Editors
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support our community of more than 17,000 members to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. As a founding member of the Optical Confederation we work with others to improve eye health for the public good. For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk
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