We know from the people we support that people’s mental health has already been negatively affected during the Coronavirus crisis as people have been growing increasingly fearful about what it would mean for them.

People with mental health problems can already feel so isolated and services like ours provide vital social connections that help people rebuild confidence and overcome difficulties.

Social distancing is creating anxiety because people are going to lose contact with the community services that keep them well – and so there is the added fear that goes beyond the loneliness that any of us can feel if we are apart from friends and families. They fear that they may become more unwell.

It isn't just their mental health – for many of the people we support, we provide practical help and assistance and in some of our services, we provide hot meals for people who don’t have any way of cooking for themselves. And with the cafes now closed too, and shortages of food in the shops, there is real anxiety that they wont be able to find healthy food.

People are seeing all of their usual support networks and the things that keep them mentally and physically well closing and this fear is putting people at risk.

Maintaining contact with others by phone, email or other remote means, is absolutely vital during this period. Our services, and all other mental health services, are moving their support to telephone and online, using as many creative ways as we can to keep people in touch with us and with each other. For those who are using social media, we are setting up groups and calls to connect people together and to our staff.

Not everyone has access to online resources so we need to make sure that information that they need is provided in other ways such as by phone or text.

We are not only providing this contact and support, but we are making sure that those who are vulnerable and not able to access vital supplies or medication are put in touch with the relevant local authorities and agencies that can provide the necessary support.

Local communities are responding to this crisis and help those most in need, and organisations like ours are part of that network to make sure that people are connected with the range of local and national services that can help them.

Staying connected and keeping in touch is really important – but social distancing and self-isolation creates additional fear and so it isn't just about not being lonely but about talking openly about these anxieties so that it is easier to cope.

The advice we would give is:

  • Reach out and ask for help to cope with increased anxiety and worries about your health. There are lots of sources of support. Our organisation has a national information line and email information service that will operate as normal: 0300 323 1545 (open Monday-Friday 9am to 3.30pm with an answer service in operation outwith these hours) and [email protected] We will respond to people and provide direct support; and we will make sure people are referred on to any other agencies they need to help them.
  • We are also reaching out to remote and rural communities through our National Rural Mental Health Forum: www.ruralwellbeing.org
  • Stay connected in some way – keep in touch with people whom you can phone and, if possible, see at least daily. And try to talk about other things as well as the crisis. Trying to keep sight of a time when this will be past is an important part of coping with the present uncertainty
  • Stay physically active where possible. With so much our ordinary routines shut down – create a new routine of a daily walk round the block (within the self-distancing rules) at the same time – it is something you need to get ready for and plan. Losing routine can be particularly hard for people already struggling with low mood or poor mental health
  • Find time in the day just to watch TV or listen to the radio – but not always the news. Any activity that is a diversion from the worry is good and it gives people something to talk about also when they speak to each other. Sounds trivial but our conversations are being swamped by talk of the virus and we need to try to keep other bits of our lives going too.

This is an uncertain time for everyone – but support is still available and people should not try to cope on their own. Connectivity is more important than ever.

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash