Loneliness one of biggest killers, says Emotional First Aid organization

“Loneliness is the disease of our time," said Dr. Shiri Daniels, the professional director of ERAN.

A woman walks alone in a park (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A woman walks alone in a park
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The number of people who complained about loneliness in phone calls to ERAN (Emotional First Aid) increased to around 20% in 2017 compared with 2016, while 4% of the callers discussed intentions of suicide.
ERAN is a free, confidential service for people of all ages and backgrounds to reach out over the phone or through the Internet to receive “emotional first aid.”
In 2017, the service was used by an average of 495 people daily from around the country, about 20 per hour, who were responded to by 1,200 ERAN volunteers who spent 93,000 hours volunteering in the past year. About 180 new, well-trained volunteers joined the organization last year.
The 180,880 calls made in 2017 to ERAN, which has just held its annual awareness week, are compared with 170,000 in 2016, an increase of 6.4%.
A total of 6,815 inquiries included suicidal content, compared with about 5,000 conversations with suicidal content in 2016, while 800 calls were defined as “high-risk” and required a lifesaving emergency procedure.
The main issues addressed this year included loneliness (21.6%); issues involving soldiers and the IDF (9%); mental distress (8.3%); depression (8%); anxiety, trauma and insecurity (6%); immigration and absorption problems (5.9%); interpersonal relations (5.7%); parent-child relations (5.3%); aging (5%); relationships with spouse (4.1%); disability and various diseases (4.1%); violence or sexual assault (3.9%); economic hardship and unemployment (3.8%); suicide or intentional acts to hurt oneself (3.7%); sexual identity (2%); recent death of a close relative (1.8%); learning in school and college (0.5%); and eating disorders (0.3%).
The vast majority of queries, 85%, were over the phone lines (1201) while only 15% were via the Internet (www.eran.org.il). Women made more queries than men, with 62.7% of the phone calls and 72% of those who reached out through the Internet coming from women. More than 5% were below the age of 17 and 13.3% by adults 65 years and older. As for geographical differences, 54% of the requests came from the central region, 19% from the North, 15% from Jerusalem, and 13% from the South.
ERAN director-general David Koren said: “We completed another year in which we were on the social front of the emotional support for tens of thousands of Israelis. ERAN saved hundreds of lives.”
Dr. Shiri Daniels, the professional director of ERAN and the author of its annual report, added: “Loneliness is the disease of our time, and I think this is also the leading cause of death among many, because there is a link among loneliness, mental well-being and physical health. It is important not to focus public discourse on violence and cyberbullying but rather on ways in which online services can be harnessed to save lives... A person in a crisis of loneliness, disappointment, despair, contemplating suicide or suffering from psychological distress for any reason will find ERAN attentive and genuinely interested in his [or her] problems and able to help.”