Many of those seeking help from the State-funded helpline Supportline 179 are doing so over loneliness. It transpires that in 2022 these types of cases totalled 3,636 out of 12,515 calls handled through this service operated by the Foundation for Social Welfare Services. However, the number could be even higher as there were 2,436 cases whereby the reason of the call was not specified.

Research has shown that lonely people call support lines for emotional connection, anonymity, validation, crisis intervention, access to resources, and learning coping strategies. Some people find it easier to open up about their feelings to a stranger on a support line because they can maintain anonymity. This anonymity can make it easier for individuals to share their thoughts and emotions without the fear of being recognized or judged by people they know.

Supportline 179 offers help and information about local social welfare services and other agencies, and serves as referral service to callers who require assistance. It is also a national service for people who are in times of difficulty or crisis. The primary mission of is to provide immediate and unbiased help to those seeking information, support, and/or require a referral to social service agencies.

Data on the calls handled by Supportline 179 was recently tabled in parliament by Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon in reply to a question by Opposition MP Ivan Bartolo. He noted that the services which is operated on a 24-hour basis, is manned by three employees in every shift.

A closer analysis of the data reveals that apart from loneliness, the second higher number of cases were on mental health with 1,353 calls in 2022.  Other notable issues which are cropping up related to homelessness with 507 cases and ‘romantic relationship conflicts’ with 362 calls.

Cases of domestic violence accounted to 602, though these were subdivided in various categories. Almost half of these calls involved emotional abuse (297) while physical abuse accounted to 197 cases while a further 79 cases were of those fearing of being at risk of this kind of abuse.

In 2022, Supportline 179 also handled 480 cases of child abuse, mostly neglect (160) followed by emotional (128), physical (96) and sexual (17). A further 79 cases were identified as at risk of child abuse.  

The above trends continued in 2023, whereby in the first half of this year the support line received 5,505 calls with loneliness once again emerging as the most common theme.