With many people feeling heightened anxiety during the on-going Coronavirus crisis, the challenge of life in lockdown could be particularly tough for those already suffering with mental health conditions.
But positive outcomes are being felt across Telford & Wrekin, with mental health specialists donning personal protective equipment and carrying on with their vital work in people’s homes across the borough.
And as Mental Health Awareness Week begins, Lyn Hall, the council’s Mental Health Team Leader, has spoken candidly about the work the team has carried out since lockdown began.
“The mental health team is open and despite Coronavirus we are continuing to see positive outcomes.
We are making daily phone calls to many people and continue to visit those in the community where necessary.
One of our team, Nicola, recently had what she described as a ‘lovely visit’ sitting in the garden with a person who has severe obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety and usually spends all their time indoors.
During the conversation they agreed to do some gardening, and spent time planning what they could do to encourage the wildlife.”
Small jobs can make all the difference
But it may also be smaller jobs that may seem less important that are also having a real positive impact on those in the community.
“One member of our team is visiting a client to help secure her new toilet seat.
Not an obvious high risk priority visit you may think. However this seemingly unnecessary and simple task will prevent a serious escalation in the person’s mental health and ensure they continue to feel safe and able to cope.
We have successfully organised ‘crashed cleans’ on several properties enabling people to self-isolate in less stressful, safe and more organised environments.
Two members of the team worked hard to support a person’s timely discharge from The Redwoods (a purpose-built mental health centre in Shrewsbury).
During our morning team catch up they feedback that when the person arrived back home he was in disbelief about the change in his flat and was brought to tears. He was so pleased.”
Lyn said another member of the team had done good work in supporting a person with high risk and complex needs to secure his own supported accommodation.
“Prior to this he had spent many months in Redwoods. When he got home he said he felt like Elvis – The King.”
Continuing to help even when closed
Some of the council’s services have had to close during the crisis – including the thrice weekly Calm Café, which was a safe haven for those who need it to go and have a chat and a cup of tea.
“Although the Calm Café is closed, Leanora who runs it and MIND, the mental health charity, have continued to keep in touch with all the people who attended.
For some people the closure of this service has had a significant effect on their mental health.
As a result Leanora has arranged to visit one person so they can play dominoes again. Both Leanora and the person have agreed they will wear PPE.”
Lyn said the Advanced Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP) service is operating as usual.
Some work continues as usual
“AMHP’s are supporting each other for all community assessments and we have full access to PPE.
There has been no significant increase in the numbers of Mental Health Act Assessments. Although each assessment can be more complex due to the concerns over Covid restrictions, and the impact this has on both the person being assessed and the professionals attending.
There has been no increase in the number of urgent requests. Although we are no longer visiting care homes we are in the process of looking at the waiting list to see if we can complete any assessments remotely.
We are working closely with both the local, regional and national DoLS leads, and have recently secured some excellent training.
More generally the impact of Covid -19 has had a positive effect on our relationship with partner agencies.
The improved communication and information sharing has allowed us to work together more closely and creatively, to support people and ensure we are managing risks collaboratively.
Microsoft Teams has enabled us to work directly with both the police and ambulance service resulting in a shared risk management and support plan.
In addition we are also working closely with Shropshire AMHP and SW team on developing shared policies for both Mental Health Act Assessments and policy and funding arrangements.”
Help is available
At a time when many of us are feeling pressure from expanding workloads and pressure at home, it’s reassuring to see the work of Lyn’s team.
Councillor Andy Burford, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said:
“We are very proud to be supporting Mental Health Awareness Week.
The work our team carries out in the community is absolutely vital and we are rightly proud of them.
The current coronavirus pandemic is heightening anxiety and mental health issues for some. It is okay to feel this way.
Everyone reacts differently to different events but there is support out there.”
Visit https://www.telford.gov.uk/mentalhealth to see mental support available both locally and nationally.