PEOPLE from across the UK living with multiple sclerosis (MS) are speaking out about the support they’ve had from the MS Helpline – as it celebrates its 30th-anniversary.
The helpline was launched by the MS Society in November 1991 and supports tens of thousands of people affected by MS each year. Last year alone, it had over 26,000 enquiries on the phone, by email and via Facebook messenger.
Shana Pezaro, who’s 42 and from Sussex, said:
“I called the MS Helpline when I was first diagnosed. My friends and family were absolutely wonderful, but I needed to talk about my fears and feelings without worrying about upsetting the person l was talking to. The helpline gave me that anonymity and distance.
“I was really nervous when l called the helpline for the first time. The person on the other end was really kind, reassuring and just asked gentle questions until suddenly l started pouring everything out.
“That was 14 years ago and l will forever be grateful. The helpline has been there for me at the hardest moments of my MS journey. And l know they will be there for me again if l need them in the future.”
Aleks de Gromoboy, who’s 58 and from Ealing, was diagnosed with MS in 2011. He volunteers for the helpline but has also received support from the service in the past, he said:
“I phoned the MS Helpline after I was diagnosed because I was having a difficult time with my employer and I wanted to understand what my rights were. For the first time since my diagnosis, I was treated like a human being – MS wasn’t my defining feature. The person I spoke to was kind, caring and took time with me to discuss more than just the question I called about. I was left with a real sense of wanting to help and so I began volunteering as soon as I could.”
Over the past year the MS Helpline has extended the support it provides in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An MS Nurse Service began at the start of the first lockdown and had 1560 enquiries during 2020; befriending calls have also been added.
The MS Helpline also offers support from a Welfare Benefits Advisor, an MS Legal Advisor and a physical activity service.
Abi Stidston and Julie Gaynor are joint Heads of Helpline at the MS Society, they said:
“We’re incredibly proud to be marking the MS Helpline’s 30th-anniversary this month and would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff and volunteers who’ve supported us over this time.
“Over 130,000 people live with MS in the UK and it can be relentless, painful and disabling. We want to be here for everyone impacted by the condition, whatever they’re going through – whether they are newly diagnosed, have lived with the condition for decades, or are a family member of someone with MS. We do everything from providing emotional support, offering information around treatment and therapies to helping people with benefits and financial difficulties.”
For more information or to get in touch with the MS Helpline, please visit: www.mssociety.org.uk/care-and-support/ms-helpline.
You can donate to this vital service, by visiting: www.mssociety.org.uk/helpline-30.