August 3, 2020

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Mental Health

Mind responds to ‘huge demand’ for information about how to cope with your mental health during coronavirus

Mental health charity Mind recently held an invite-only digital event, which SHP was proud to host and support. During the event Mind’s President, Stephen Fry, spoke about his own mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and CEO Paul Famer discussed Mind’s work and plans for the future.

Stephen FryStephen Fry became Mind’s President in September 2011 and has been a tireless campaigner, supporter and advocate for everyone experiencing mental health problems. Stephen was speaking as part of a virtual Mind event to reflect on some of the work the charity has been doing during the coronavirus pandemic and its plans for the future. During his address, he reflected on how lockdown has affected him personally. He discussed the changes he has gone through in response to the virus and the effect social media can have on your mental health, especially when comparing yourself to what others were doing during lockdown.

Mind CEO Paul Farmer opened proceedings by discussing the results of a recent survey, published in July, which polled more than 16,000 people to talk about their experiences with coronavirus and its effect on their mental health.

The data highlighted that 65% of adults over 25 and 75% of young people aged 13-24 with an existing mental health problem reported worse mental health during lockdown, while 22% of adults  with no previous experience of poor mental health now say that their mental health is poor or very poor.

Speaking on coping with the anxieties of living with coronavirus, Paul said: “Like all companies and individuals, Mind has had to be adaptable and almost turn the way we work upside down. Our local Minds, which usually deliver face-to-face services, have gone digital and are running telephone-based services and we have sent out hundreds of postcards to support those people who may have been without digital access during the pandemic.

“We’ve responded to a huge demand for information about how to cope with your mental health during coronavirus, with well over a million downloads of information from our website.”

Paul shared that Mind’s digital peer support community, Elefriends, now has well over 100,000 active users and that a transmission into a new platform, Side by Side, is imminent, due to the scale of demand.

As a result of the increased demand for its services, the charity has published five key tests for government that it wants to see undertaken as part of a cross-governmental approach to supporting people’s mental health, including investing in community services and reforming the Mental Health Act. Just one of a series of initiatives put in place to help reinforce the work Mind has been undertaking.

Mind online resources

Paul FarmerA lot of work has been carried out on Mind’s online services to enable people in isolation easy access to information online. As we come out of lockdown, the charity will be working with its local Minds to get face-to-face interaction up and running again, as smoothly and safely as possible.

“It’s been a time of great collaboration and partnership; we’ve been really pleased to see partnerships coming to the fore across the voluntary sector,” Paul said. “In a very short period of time we’ve partnered with the Samaritans, the mental health charity Shout and with Hospice UK to create ‘Our Frontline’, which is an initiative specifically for front line workers, people who work in the NHS and social care or key workers working in supermarkets or on public transport.”

Paul announced that, in the six or seven weeks since that service has been running, Mind has had well over 100,000 people using it to ask for help and support.

One such person, is 22-year-old Aashni Shah, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression aged 13. Aashni described how she initially had no idea what a mental illness was and how, through the help of medication and therapy, she is now able to live a ‘normal’ life.

Aashni Shah

“I hope that Mind continues to be there for people like me, and for many others who will face a lasting impact from the pandemic, we need this charity now more than ever.

“There are many vulnerable individuals out there who need a helping hand, who need immediate support, and who need to be heard. Mental health is important! We all need to do our bit, to both look after ourselves and our loves ones. You can also help Mind be there for anyone that needs support by supporting Mind today and in the future.”

The focus then switched to how Mind can ensure it is relevant and still playing a vital role as it builds its strategy for the coming few months and years.

Paul continued: “We know that whilst coronavirus has had a huge impact on our mental health that mental health problems were around before coronavirus, they were very much around during coronavirus and, significantly, will be around after the physical impact of coronavirus has started to recede. So, it’s all the more important that we remain a strong and vibrant organisation that is able to respond to people’s needs.”

How is mental health taught?

On the back of his 2006 documentary, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, described as a watershed in the public perception of mental health, Stephen Fry was astonished by how many doctors contacted him afterwards, he told guests of the digital event. Many doctors felt they had been miss-reading the signs of mental illness when diagnosing people, because the way it was taught to them at medical school.

He described how there have been significant advances in the way mental health is taught in medical schools in the last decade and how the role of mental health in total health is vitally important in the role of a doctor.

Concluding, Paul spoke of Mind’s “clear plan of action, post-lockdown. To respond to the direct and indirect consequences of coronavirus. We are here for people who are experiencing mental health problems.”

The session ended with Stephen Fry’s three top tips to coping with the mental health issues surround coronavirus:

  • Give yourself permission to ‘fail’.
  • Allow yourself to float a lot more.
  • Give yourself permission to flow.

Attendees were played out by a powerful performance from Emily Maguire, who’s rendition of her song ‘I’d Rather Be’ provided a fitting end to the event.

When asked to perform in the session, Emily said: “I nearly said no as I’ve been in a bit of a depressive episode but I’m so glad I changed my mind – singing that song shifted something in me, gave me some courage.”

Mind is the official charity partner of the Workplace Wellbeing Show.

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