Player supported charity Missing People is warning that hundreds of people are at risk over Christmas after calls to its helpline rose by two thirds during the coronavirus outbreak.
The societal and financial impacts of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions have sparked a rise in the number of people thinking about disappearing, Missing People said.
Calls to its helpline have risen 68%, from an average of 284 calls per quarter in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to 477 on average for the first two quarters of 2020-21.
And the number of vulnerable adults helped by the charity has risen more than a third since March, with 817 adults helped on average during the first two quarters of 2020-21.
The charity is asking families forced to separate over the festive period to check up on loved ones remotely as some people are "necessarily excluded" from Christmas celebrations because of Government guidelines that limit gatherings to three households.
Chief executive Jo Youle said:
“Christmas is always a challenging time of year, and especially so in 2020 when many of us have spent the year apart from loved ones and are continuing to do so.
“Mental health and money problems are a key driver for people to go missing. This year the financial and societal impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to lead to a significant increase in the numbers of people going missing, and feeling suicidal, perhaps at a scale not seen before.
“This is likely to be most acutely felt in disadvantaged communities and those who are already socially excluded.”
A survey for the charity found that two-thirds of vulnerable people reported that lockdown measures had worsened their mental health, while half said it had become harder to access support services.
Supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Missing People has produced a free guide on how families can look after each others’ mental health.
Long Term Partnership Manager at People’s Postcode Lottery, Hazel Johnstone said:
“Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have shown their commitment to tackling the issues that are resulting from the impacts of Covid-19. We are delighted that support from our players is continuing to positively impact the work of Missing People at this vital time, and to highlight the stigma that can exist about why people go missing.”
For a free guide to taking care of mental health this winter, visit www.missingpeople.org.uk/winterguides