Steph, who takes calls on the Mind Infoline, writes about what it’s been like over the pandemic, and why you should pick up the phone if you need us, or support our work if you can.
I want to begin by telling anyone who is struggling, please pick up the phone – we are here to support you.
We’re expecting even more calls over winter as we all face Coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions for a while. We are here for you.
I’ve been answering calls on Mind’s Infoline for two years. Since the pandemic began we’ve been busier than ever. The majority of calls we’ve been getting are from people who are extremely lonely. It’s been such a hard time for people stuck at home, and that isolation can lead to negative thoughts and overthinking, and that can spiral as the weeks go on. The calls are more emotional than ever before – we’ve all had people on the phone crying due to loneliness. These kinds of calls were at their peak during the nationwide lockdown in spring. We’re expecting even more calls over winter as we all face Coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions for a while. We are here for you.
It’s been an incredibly hard time for many people with existing mental health problems. It made it so much harder to manage these issues. Many of the self care plans people had became impossible – exercise and getting outside for a walk or some air is really important to a lot of people but this was severely restricted when lockdown was at its most extreme. Trying to maintain social contact is such an important thing, but again, it’s so much harder now. On top of that many people struggled to access their GPs and many appointments people rely on with Community Psychiatric Nurses or social workers became telephone appointments rather than face to face, which just isn’t the same for many people.
We’ve also had lots of calls from people experiencing mental health problems for the first time. Again, loneliness has been a big factor, but people have also been faced with many worries - health of family and friends, bereavement, money worries from pay reduction or redundancy, and just generally uncertainty about the future.
Most of the calls we receive at the moment are from people who don’t really know what they’re looking for, and that’s fine. They want someone to talk to, and someone who can give them options and the hope that they won’t always feel like this.
There are lots of ways we try to help the people we talk to. Firstly by providing an empathetic ear but we also want to give people practical advice and options. At the moment we’ve been focusing a lot on different types of self-care and talking through each caller’s situation and needs and what kind of things might work for them. Tips for anxiety often include mindfulness, yoga, relaxation, breathing exercises. It can also include managing worries, by keeping a regular diary, and also managing their physical health by exercise and eating well.
Lots of people are looking for services, particularly counselling so we help them find what options are available in their local area.
Often picking up the phone is the hardest step but it’s the first step to getting better and we’re here to support you.
We also point people towards the advice on our website where we have a wide range of information on different types of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, BPD, OCD, eating disorders. All of this information has been produced by Mind’s information team, together with people with lived experience of those issues, and it includes lots of guidance on treatment options, tips on ways to cope and information on getting more help. Having that kind of information empowers people and helps them feel less alone. Since the pandemic began, we’ve found people are struggling much more intensely with these problems, and we spend much more time talking the caller through the guides on the website step by step. Recently we heard our average call time had gone up by two minutes, which is a huge jump, but we really want people to have all the time they need, to feel heard, and to finish the call feeling they have a way forward.
We would encourage anyone who is stressed or anxious or struggling during this time, to take the time to pick up the phone and talk to us. Often picking up the phone is the hardest step but it’s the first step to getting better and we’re here to support you.
It’s really clear to us we’re in a mental health emergency. People need us more than ever and we’ve never needed your support more.
On the other hand, if you’re in a position to support Mind this Christmas so we can keep on being there for others we’d be so grateful for your support. It’s really clear to us we’re in a mental health emergency. People need us more than ever and we’ve never needed your support more.
Read about Information and support
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.