How we’re supporting people who use Together services
Together staff are doing all that we can to continue to support the people we work alongside. They have been working together, not giving up in the face of difficult and challenging situations and involving the people we work alongside to ensure they are supported in the way they have chosen and need to be at this time. Staff have been giving up their holidays to cover shifts for their colleagues while volunteers are asking what else they can do to offer additional support. Our teams are checking in on colleagues who they know have personal circumstances that are causing concern and staff are spending extra time to listen, hear and respond to the understandable anxieties and distress of the people who use our services. We are working collaboratively with other organisations and agencies to explore sharing resources.
The senior leadership team at Together is acting in every conceivable way we can to ensure our services keep running whilst also looking out for our staff, volunteers and the people we are here to serve. That includes looking out for the community in which our services operate and the other organisations and agencies that we come into contact with. We will do our part to help build resilience and strengthen connectedness.
Important information on coronavirus
The best source for health information on coronavirus is the NHS website which is updated regularly with advice:
The BBC have also produced a useful page that lists advice in a simple way:
If you need specific advice you can visit the NHS 111 online service website to see if you have symptoms of the virus at https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
In addition to general public advice on coronavirus there is also specific advice for certain groups:
- Health professionals such as key workers like Together staff can see advice for them at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/wuhan-novel-coronavirus
- Staff working in social or community care and residential settings which also includes Together staff can access advice at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-social-or-community-care-and-residential-settings-on-covid-19/guidance-for-social-or-community-care-and-residential-settings-on-covid-19
Managing mental health and wellbeing during coronavirus and social distancing
Each and everyone of us is being presented with a new and unprecedented challenge to our mental wellbeing in coping with the changes to our lives brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. This is something none of us have experienced before and it can cause stress and anxiety amongst other emotions whether you have experienced mental distress previously or not whether that be because of concerns around you health or that of your loved ones or coping with social distancing and lock down measures.
There is a lot to consider and everyone’s experience is different and we see that across the different types of services we provide around England from residential homes, to community support and advocacy services and supporting people in criminal justice settings. A lot of other charities have produced advice and tips on how to manage this but our core principle is service user leadership and we believe in the value of lived experience so we will be compiling a selection of coping strategies and activities from across our organisation people have found useful. These tips may not be relevant for everyone but we hope the variety of them will show different perspectives and hopefully there will be useful elements people can take away. We will publish these tips in the coming weeks.
General tips for looking after your mental wellbeing while at home
Of all the advice we’ve seen online, this was one of the most clear and concise from Sarah Kendrick, psychotherapist for Shout which was on the BBC website:
Be safe and stay connected – Self-isolation doesn’t mean cutting off all communication, in fact, it’s more important than ever to talk and listen, share stories and advice, and stay in touch with the people who matter to you.
Take notice of things that make you feel good – Eating healthy food, keeping moving by going out for walks or exercising can help us to feel good. Notice the beauty outside your window or on a walk around the block, taking time to acknowledge people you see.
Go on an information mini-break – the endless updates from news outlets and people on social media can be completely overwhelming. Pick one trusted source of information and visit it once a day only.
Share how you’re feeling – Talk to loved ones and friends. Talking has the effect of lifting our mood and really helps us to begin to feel more positive if we’re having a tough time.
Keep moving – Find ways to move your body and your mood every day. It’s OK to go for a walk, run or ride your bike, as long as you avoid other people.
Stick to a routine – This sounds dull but it will help you get through each day. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time, eat regularly, shower, change your clothes, get some fresh air, book in video-chats with colleagues or friends, do your chores. Make time for fun!
Find ways to relax and distract – Finding things that help you breathe deeply, consciously setting your worries aside or focusing on the moment to recharge can be helpful. Distracting yourself by watching films or TV programmes, reading or listening to music will help you to set things in context and provide relief from anxious feelings.
Resources with advice on maintaining mental wellbeing during the coronavirus
- The NHS has also published a guide on managing your mental health during the coronavirus here https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/
- The National Survivor User Network’s (NSUN) have produced collection of videos and blogs by people with lived experience of mental distress, sharing what service user led groups and NSUN members are doing during this time – #NSUNCovidLife – https://www.nsun.org.uk/Pages/Category/nsuncovidlife
- NSUN’s resources about COVID-19 are available at https://www.nsun.org.uk/covid-19
- Hearing Voices Network provide advice and guidance for those who live with voices or visions at http://www.hearing-voices.org/resources/covid-survival/
- The BBC put together some useful videos dispelling some of the myths that are going around about coronavirus on social media here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/51952535/coronavirus-health-myths-you-should-ignore and here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/51979410/coronavirus-more-myths-to-ignore
- For The Guardian Australian academic, psychologist and author Lea Waters shared tips around coping with social distancing and anxiety around coronavirus here https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/mar/17/silver-linings-how-to-stay-positive-during-the-coronavirus-crisis and here https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2020/mar/25/how-to-use-your-spare-time-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-video
- Joanne, a resident at our Astley Cooper Place residential service has been writing poetry around coronavirus and was kind enough to share some of that in the hope of helping others – https://www.together-uk.org/together-resident-at-astley-cooper-place-shares-poetry-written-during-social-distancing/
- Together Self-Management Resources – Our self-management resources have been developed and reviewed by people with lived experience of mental distress at Together. They are available for service users, staff and volunteers to use. The resources provide information, tools and techniques around managing your own wellbeing, along with links to useful websites. They provide suggestions of things people may like to try, based on what has helped others. As everyone is different, some of the suggestions may not be appropriate for all but that is OK and people should go with what works for them. There is a tips section in each resource and a blank area for your own tips:
- Anxiety Management – Follow this link for more anxiety management tools
- Arts, Culture and Leisure – Follow this link for an Accessible Britain E-Book (reviewed by disabled people)
- Confidence Building – Follow this link for more confidence building tools
- Exercise – Follow this link for tools around managing an activity or exercise with an eating disorder
- Food – Follow this link for food diaries and other tools
- Hobbies and Leisure – Follow this link for further resources covering hobbies and leisure
- Mindfulness – Follow these links for CBT and free mindfulness drawing resources
- Relaxation and Stress Reduction – Follow this link for relaxation and stress management tools/techniques
- Sleep Management – Follow this link for sleep management tools/techniques
Accessing support for mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
Together services are based around England and you can view these using our service finder. We don’t have an advice line but if you do want to speak to someone directly the following resources are available:
- Anxiety UK – Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
- Mind – Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
- Samaritans – Phone: 116 123
- YoungMinds – Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)