Mental health support continues in Lancashire during lockdown

Lockdown has affected the mental health of almost half of the UK, as the nations’ eighth week indoors has begun to take its toll on many.

Saturday, 16th May 2020, 12:30 pm
People in Lancashire continue to suffer with mental health problems during lockdown, but services remain available.

An estimated 24% of people in Lancashire are in contact with specialist mental health services. Many of which are continuing to offer support throughout lockdown.

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness week, starting on Monday May 18, Alice-Newton Leeming, Director of Mental Health Learning in Preston, said that support is needed now more than ever to keep encouraging people to ask for help.

“Although some people are flourishing during this unusual time, it is important to remember those on the other end of the spectrum who are suffering the most. These people may have had pre-existing mental health issues and now cant access the same level of support they used to,” she said.

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“The lockdown has impacted people massively, and seems to have caused issues where people with mental health problems may feel unworthy in asking for support from services and the NHS.

“It’s important that these people don’t feel like they are burdening the services that are out there to help them in Lancashire.”

Mental Health Learning is an advice and guidance organisation based in Preston, which offers members of the community and workplaces training to support individuals or employees.

The nature of the Covid-19 lockdown has meant the service has had to adapt the way that they equip workplaces with the appropriate training.

Mental health advice services are still being offered throughout Lancashire.

“With most of our training being carried out face to face, we have now had to adapt our workshop to provide them online,” said Alice.

“They are so important because they advise people on recognising signs of people struggling and being alert to signs of distress and other mental health concerns.

“The response to the way people are coping in lockdown has been interesting and seems to be going one way or the other. As humans we like to think we are in control and on top of things, so this has really impacted people. It can be relentless for some.”

In a study by the Mental Health Foundation, it revealed that a quarter of UK adults had suffered feelings of loneliness due to the pandemic, rising to 44 percent in 18-24 year olds.

In another survey by the Royal Society for Public Health, it found that 70 percent of those in the 18-24 age bracket were experiencing increased anxiety whilst living under lockdown restrictions.

An NHS helpline offering advice and emotional support has since been extended to be available 24/7 as people across Lancashire deal with the implications of the pandemic.

The staff in the team are delighted that latest results show that 100 per cent of people who have used the service say they would use it again.

Perri McGovern, Acting Service Manager for the Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline explained that it was a really uncertain and worrying time for the community. She said: “It can be difficult to manage mental health and wellbeing when you are not able to do the things that matter most to you like seeing your family and friends or just simply going out to work.

“We recognise this and want to support people whenever they are feeling this way. I am pleased that we’ve been able to extend our usual service hours to be available 24/7 at a time when people really need some extra support. It is important everyone knows you’re not alone and support is much closer than you think.

“I would urge anyone who needs support, a conversation or is suffering with a mental health problem to call or text us for emotional support and a listening ear.”

Locally, Chris Horrocks, Marketing and Communications Emergency Response Specialist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals said drop in sessions and ‘wobble rooms’ are available at Royal Preston Hospital (RPH) and other hospitals in Lancashire.

“Discussions around mental health are at the forefront of every meeting we have at the moment. It’s really so important,” he said.

“We now offer wobble rooms to staff at each unit, so if anyone feels like they’re having a bad day, perhaps as a result of Covid 19 and its impact, we aren’t ignoring it. We’ve provided these rooms to make people feel as comfortable as possible.

“At RPH we are piloting a drop in session at the chapel, where people can drop by and have a cup of tea and a chat. Every condition is catered for and welcomed, and they have the chance to discuss how they feel. The people staffing these sessions are members of our wellbeing team.”

An innovative ecotherapy project in Lancashire that connects people with wildlife and nature to help support their mental health is also continuing their support throughout the lockdown.

The MyPlace project has been successfully delivered through a partnership between Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft) and the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire over the past three years, helping more than 1,200 people struggling with their mental health.

Ellie Sherlock, Communications Officer of the MyPlace project said that the way they deliver their sessions has had to make the move over to using technology, but has been welcomed by those who use the service.

“Obviously, offering our usual outdoor sessions hasn’t been a possibility during lockdown. We know however, that more than ever, people need support with their mental health and staying connected,” she said.

“We have used online ecotherapy sessions to stay connected with people through video conferencing. We’ve offered simple things like teaching people how to make outdoor bird feeders and growing their own food at home.

“Usually we’d encourage people to take a step away from technology and embrace the outdoors but unfortunately, this isn’t possible at the moment. So far, the response has been amazing.”

A user of the MyPlace service, Shaun, has been using the online sessions since the lockdown restrictions were imposed. He said: "It works. We all start the sessions a little bit low, but due to the well prepared and structured sessions, we all seem to leave feeling better and having learnt something new."

Other popular local services continuing to offer support and guidance throughout Preston and Lancashire include the Intact Centre in Ingol, Lancashire Mind in Chorley and Rise and Shine Lancashire.

The NHS continue to offer support via their helpline services, at Lancashire and South Cubria Foundation Trust, the Chorley and South Ribble Crisis Line and the Preston Crisis Line.

Crisis support services can be filtered locally, by postcode, at the ‘Find Crisis Support Services’ NHS webpage: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline

Advice from urgent GP appointments can also be accessed by calling 111, or ringing 116 123 for the Samaritans.