Julian John, Director at Cwm Taf Morgannwg Mind and Chair of One Mind in Wales, blogs about how the lockdown has changed local Minds.
I was in my office and planning my week as usual when the UK Government introduced their key message, 'stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives'. The severity of the situation, and how it will impact on local Mind mental health services in Wales, really hit home.
Tensions were building, staff were becoming concerned and people were feeling stressed, anxious and angry. People using our services were concerned about their appointments and talking treatments. In our local high street, I saw people panic buying sanitizers, paracetamol and toilet roll; which had all suddenly become essential commodities, and the mood in our community was changing.
We are doing all we can to reach out.
As social distancing rules were introduced and we received daily updates, my peers and I were asking ourselves the same questions. How can we continue to support those who need us? How will we manage risks? What can I do for my team? It was no longer 'business as usual' and we knew we had to be creative and responsive. Quickly, connections were being made with colleagues at other local Minds across Wales and further afield. We were all talking about what we do next and how can we shift services to meet people's changing needs. We are doing all we can to reach out.
The setting might be different, but the support is still there.
Many local Minds are now offering support remotely, including e-counselling, emotional support over the phone, peer support, on-line training and live Facebook events. Online platforms have been crucial and I'd recommend everyone follow their local Mind's social media channels to find out what support is available locally.
I have been so impressed with our staff and volunteers who have worked hard to keep our support running despite not being able to help people face to face. Last week a group of ten new mums in Ystradgynlais were able to use Zoom to connect with each other and get support and advice though Mum's Matter. The setting might be different, but the support is still there.
We can also continue to deliver our caseload work, so our advocates can still support people in hospital or living in hostels. We are also helping people with benefit challenges as most of this work is admin-heavy and can continue to be managed over the phone or online as we need to keep people up-to-date on any progress. Anyone worrying about their mental health can also get support from Mind through the Infoline, legal line, on-line peer support services and through the excellent information pages on this website.
All the local Minds are concerned for what the Coronavirus means for people with serious mental illness. The UK Government has made temporary legislative changes to the mental health act to relax assessment and holding powers. This could delay appeals and review meetings resulting in people being detained for care and treatment over a longer period. We are doing all that we can to work in partnership with the NHS Mental Health Services and Local Authorities across Wales. Our colleagues at Mind Cymru will ensure Welsh Government is aware of the challenges and support needs of people with mental health problems. Creative responses with continued funding must remain a top priority.
These are worrying times for many of us. For those of us who need mental health support and those of us who deliver it. But we are working to do everything we can to make sure that anyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both the support and respect that they deserve, even in these extraordinary times. Local Minds support more than twenty-four thousand people across Wales every year, so if you need us, then please get in touch today.
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