‘We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health’
Ahead of Workplace Wellbeing Show Connect 2021, SHP speaks to Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, about the work the charity has been doing during the pandemic.
Workplace Wellbeing Show 2021 consists of a high-level virtual Conference, from 1-3 June, and a month-long virtual event, from 1-30 June 2021. Mind continues to be the event’s official charity partner.
Briefly, can you outline some of the main challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to people’s mental health?
Emma Mamo (EM): “We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health – whether that’s bereavement, the devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, or the impact of the latest economic recession on our jobs and livelihoods. It’s no understatement to say that the nation is facing a ‘mental health emergency’. During the initial lockdown, over one in two adults (60%) and over two in three young people (68%) who responded to a Mind survey reported that their mental health had worsened.
“Rates of poor mental health were already high across the country even before the pandemic. In the past year, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people contacting us about their mental health and a surge in demand for our information including via our website, Infoline and our local Minds services across England and Wales.
“Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published in November, found that the prevalence of depression has doubled, and NHS data showed a huge increase in urgent and emergency referrals for crisis care. This indicates our mental health has deteriorated across the board – from mild mental health problems through to those reaching crisis point and even needing to be hospitalised.
“Everyone experiences mental health problems differently, and there is no ‘normal’ way to respond to a pandemic. It’s really important that everyone – including Government and employers – recognises that people react to change differently. Some of us will need longer to adapt to the changes than others, and many people will continue to need help and support for their mental health beyond lockdown lifting. Patience, flexibility, empathy and timely support in this next phase will be essential. We may not see the full scale of the impact the pandemic has taken on our mental health for months or even years to come.”
What has Mind been doing to help support people?
(EM): “Our helplines – the Infoline and Legal Line – have remained operational throughout the pandemic, and thousands of people have signed up to join Side by Side, our supportive online community.
“We have produced information and guidance for individuals so they can take care of their wellbeing during this time.
“We have also produced advice and guidance for employers and people in work to help manage the disruption caused by the pandemic and the impact it may have had on their wellbeing.
“We have had convert the face-to-face services and support we offer to people into virtual or digital support.”
Can you tell me a little about Our Frontline, how that initiative has supported key worker and what some of the key issues that have been faced by key workers in the last year?
(EM): “The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant and sudden changes to our lives, including the way we work. As a result, organisations and workers have had to adapt quickly, presenting challenges to our mental health and wellbeing. For some of us, the pandemic has meant working from home or being put on furlough. For others, like key workers, it has meant going to work as usual but coping with the pressures of a global pandemic with heightened risk of catching the virus and passing it onto their loved ones.
“Right now, health and social care workers are facing an extremely challenging situation, doing important and difficult work. Months of long shifts and witnessing trauma every day will have taken its toll, but we won’t know the full impact of the pandemic on the mental health of our frontline workers for some time yet. Taking care of their own mental health and managing feelings might be taking a back seat so it is important to remind frontline workers that their wellbeing matters too.
“We know that many other workers have continued to go into work throughout the pandemic to provide essential services and this can lead to anxiety or worries about catching the virus or passing it on to friends and family. We also know that retail staff have seen an increase in verbal and physical abuse from the general public during this time. It’s important to offer staff who may be facing challenging situations the space to talk about their experiences and seek support when they need to.
“The Our Frontline initiative provides 24/7 emotional support, by call or text with trained volunteers, or online resources, to all the workers who have been on the frontline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mind’s CEO, Paul Farmer, will be discussing some of this at the in his opening keynote at Workplace Wellbeing Show virtual Conference on Tuesday 2 June. Can you tell delegates a little about what they can expect from the session?
(EM): “Paul Farmer will be reflecting on the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health including trends we’ve seen and how it’s affected different groups.
“Paul will then be exploring the impact of the pandemic on UK employers and employees with a particular focus on the challenges and innovations which have come out of remote working. While the coronavirus pandemic has meant many more of us are facing difficulties with our mental health now, it has also provided an important opportunity to talk about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
“As the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out, and we see a slow return to normal we mustn’t lose sight of what we have learnt and how we continue to fight for better mental health at work. Transitioning forward out of the pandemic by focusing on the design of work and reimagining our ways of working so staff wellbeing is at the centre of this could be transformational.
“As we continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic and the economic recession, the true scale of the nation’s mental health is only beginning to emerge. It could be many months or even years before we fully recognise the pandemic’s toll on our collective wellbeing. That’s why we welcome the UK Government’s recovery plan, which will need to see departments working more closely than ever to deliver on its promises given the multiple social challenges we face. After all, we know factors like loneliness, unemployment, debt, education, and poor housing are taking a huge toll on people’s mental health.”
Finally, how can people access Mind’s various support channels?
(EM): “There is support available through Mind’s website, confidential Infoline on 0300 123 3393 and our network of local Minds, who continue to deliver high quality, coronavirus-safe services in England and Wales.
- Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday).
- For information and support on staying mentally healthy at this time, visit mind.org.uk/coronavirus.
- Our online mental health community Side by Side is a safe space where anyone aged 18 and over with experience of a mental health problem can share their story, connect with others, access Mind’s wider information and resources, and give support in return. Find out more at sidebyside.mind.org.uk.
- Mind offers free resources for employers to help improve mental wellbeing. For more information, visit org.uk/work.”
Paul Farmer will be discussing this topic in more detail at the virtual Workplace Wellbeing Conference, from 1-3 June 2021. Join Paul at 10:00 on Tuesday 1 June. Tickets to the conference are £120 + VAT, with 20% of the ticket price donated to conference charity partner, Mind.
Other speakers include former No. 10 director of communications and strategy Alastair Campbell; astronaut Major Tim Peake; Mind CEO Paul Farmer; Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams; award-winning campaigner Tom Dunning; HSE Principal Human Factors Specialist Phoebe Smith; and many more.
Click here to see the full Workplace Wellbeing Conference agenda.
Click here for more information and to purchase your ticket.
The Workplace Wellbeing Conference is part of Safety & Health Expo and Workplace Wellbeing Show Connect 2021, your first major opportunity to come together with the rest of the occupational health, safety & wellbeing community online from 1-30 June. The month-long, online event will make it easy for you to find health and safety products & services, connect with suppliers and access thought-leadership content from your own home or workplace. Mind will also be exhibiting at Connect 2021, which is free to attend.
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