Covid 19: Advice for people severely affected by mental illness & their carers
This information is for anyone who lives with a severe mental illness.
We know that living with a severe mental illness can be challenging. And the current coronavirus pandemic could create additional problems. This information tries to help you ease or overcome some of these problems.
The NHS, social services and other services will continue to support people during the coronavirus crisis. But they might not be able to provide their normal level or support. It’s important to remember that the crisis is temporary and that things should return to normal eventually.
It’s important to remember that the crisis is temporary and that things should return to normal eventually.
The government and the NHS have publish their latest information on coronavirus on the following websites:
If you can’t access the internet you can call the NHS on 111.
We hope the advice and information in the frequently asked questions below will help you.
When we say ‘carer’ below, we mean someone who looks after you such as a relative or friend. But who isn’t a professional or paid carer.
Do I have to wear a face covering?
In England, you must by law wear a face covering in certain settings such as public transport and shops. You can click here for the full list of where you must wear a face covering and more information on them.
A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth.
The government say you should also wear a face covering in other enclosed spaces, where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
You don’t need to wear a face covering if you have a good reason not to. This includes:
• not being able to wear a face covering because of mental illness, or it will cause you severe distress
• to eat or drink, but only if you need to
• to take medication
You might not be able to wear a face covering because of your mental illness. The government say that you shouldn’t be asked to:
• give evidence of this,
• get a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering, or
• carry an exemption card.
You might feel more comfortable showing something that says you don’t have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
This is a personal choice and is not the law. You can download exemption card templates here.
A lot of the big railway and bus companies also have travel support or assistance cards that you can print out and fill in. Regional transport bodies such Transport for Greater Manchester or Network West Midlands usually have them too. You can contact your local transport body or company about this or look on their website.
You can find more information on travelling and face coverings here.
Where can my carer get information about helping me in the coronavirus crisis?
Your carer can get information by reading our coronavirus advice for carers of those living with severe mental illness article. You can read the information too, if you want to.
I am supported by an NHS mental health team. What can I do?
You might be supported by an NHS mental health team. You might need extra or different support for reasons such as:
• your carer can’t see you because either you, or they, need to self-isolate,
• your mental health might be getting worse, or
• your needs might have changed because of rules to do with coronavirus.
You can contact the person you normally deal with at your mental health team. This might be your care co-ordinator, your support worker or your CPN, for example. Explain the difficulties you are having and what help or support you need.
But it might be difficult for your mental health team to provide you with their normal level of support. This is because of the effect of coronavirus and how the virus impacts on staffing levels. But the team can tell you what support they can give to you.
Will my GP surgery still help me?
Your GP surgery can still help you, but they have changed the way they work because of the coronavirus crisis.
You will need to call them first. If an appointment with a GP or another medical professional is needed, they might try to do it over the phone.
If you are offered a face-to-face appointment, they will tell you what you need to do to keep yourself and others safe.
Are there any changes to how social services will support me?
Social services should continue to support you if you have social care needs. But the level of support they can provide you with might be less than you are used to.
New legislation means there have been changes to social care law and your rights. Read more about those changes to the law.
Your local social services can provide you with information on local social care and other support.
I can’t see my carer face-to-face. How can I stay in touch with them?
You might not be able to see your carer if either of you are having to self-isolate. You need to do this if you have symptoms of coronavirus.
As well as calling your carer you can stay in touch with them in other ways such as text message, Skype, WhatsApp or social media, for example.
You could work together with your carer on a plan for the day for you. Once you’ve done this, you can ask them to message the plan to you if you want to, so you have it in writing.
You could ask your carer to call you or message you with reminders. So, they can remind you about things like taking medication or having meals.
I am running out of my usual medication. What can I do?
If you are running out of your usual medication you should speak to your GP or mental health team. They should be able to arrange a prescription for you.
Most prescriptions are sent electronically direct to a pharmacy from the GP surgery. You can choose which pharmacy the prescription is sent to. If you can’t pick up the prescription yourself, you can let the pharmacy know who will collect it for you.
Sometimes a GP surgery will issue a paper prescription. You can take the paper prescription to any pharmacy.
If you can’t pick up the prescription yourself you can ask a friend, relative or carer to do this for you. You will need to call the GP to let them know that someone else is picking up the prescription. The person collecting the prescription will usually be asked for your name and address. Sometimes they might be asked for ID. They can then take the prescription to the pharmacy to collect your medication.
If you get free prescriptions the pharmacist should be told about the reason for this.
This information should be completed on the prescription form.
If you need someone to collect controlled drugs for you then the pharmacist may ask the person collecting it for proof of identity. And they may also ring you to make sure that your medicine is being collected by someone else.
Controlled drugs include some benzodiazepines and some pain killers. Have a look at this list of the most common controlled drugs.
If you don’t have anyone that can collect medication for you then you can ring your local pharmacy to see if they deliver.
There are also services that can post out your repeat prescriptions free of charge. And there are online pharmacies that can post out your repeat prescriptions free of charge. You can search for these online. Or ask your GP surgery for their recommendations.
Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS)
You might urgently need your normal medication and your GP surgery might be closed, or you might be struggling to speak to someone there.
You can use the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS). You need to call NHS 111 to begin with and explain the situation. Be sure to say you want to arrange repeat medication through the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service.
NHS 111 can then contact the pharmacy that you want to collect the medication from. NHS 111 can tell you what you need to do next. You should then be able to collect your medication from the pharmacy. But please note:
• If your GP surgery is open the pharmacist might tell you to contact them. If you are struggling to speak to someone at the surgery, tell the pharmacist.
• The medication is issued at the pharmacist’s discretion. So, the pharmacist might have a reason to not issue the medication to you. If this is the case, you can ask the pharmacist the reason.
• The pharmacist wouldn’t usually issue controlled drugs under this service.
Does coronavirus affect me taking clozapine?
You can read our information on ‘Coronavirus and clozapine’ by clicking here.
Where can I get information about welfare benefits and money and employment?
There have been some changes to welfare benefits rules and things like statutory sick pay, for people who are off work because of coronavirus. These changes have been made to make things easier for people during the crisis.
Our Mental Health and Money Advice Service have produced information about the impact of coronavirus on mental health and money.
Have there been any changes to the way the Mental Health Act is used?
The Mental Health Act can be used to detain people in hospital. This only happens if someone with a mental disorder is very unwell and they need to be in hospital to keep them or others safe.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, some changes have been made to the way the Mental Health Act is being used.
You can get information on the changes by clicking here.
There is no change to entitlement to free Section 117 after-care.
I get paranoid about the police, government and health professionals. I worry that they are watching me or are wanting to hurt me.
Having thoughts like this can be quite common with some mental illnesses. You may not even feel that you are unwell. Your beliefs are very real to you, even if other people don’t believe them. You may believe that the coronavirus is not real, or that the government are trying to control you.
Look around at the people you know. Most people's behaviour has changed since the coronavirus crisis started. Most people believe that the coronavirus is dangerous, so they are sticking to the rules the government have made. The police have been given powers to make sure people stick to the rules. This isn't because they are watching you, but because people are worried about the virus spreading.
Try speaking to someone who cares for you. A family member or friend. They may not always believe what you are saying but they will always have your best interests in mind.
It may also help you to contact an NHS Early Intervention Team. These are medical professionals who help people who have paranoid thoughts about things like the government and the police. You can find their contact details by doing an internet search for NHS Early Intervention Teams in your area. Or you could call your GP or NHS 111 to help you.
I struggle to speak to professionals on the phone. What can I do?
You might be anxious about speaking to professionals on the phone. Your carer might be able to speak on the phone for you.
You might have to speak on the phone first, then explain to the professional that your carer is going to speak for you.
You can ask for your carer to be recorded on the organisation’s records as your ‘nominated person’. This shows you have nominated them to speak on the phone for you. The nominated person will probably have to provide the organisation with personal details like their name, post code or date of birth. This is so the organisation can make sure it’s them when they call.
You could ask for a nominated person as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the Equality Act. You can find out more about reasonable adjustments in our information on ‘Discrimination and mental health’.
Who else can i get practical support from?
NHS Volunteer Responders
NHS Volunteer Responders are there to help vulnerable people who are self-isolating during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a severe mental illness, this includes you.
If you have no-one else to collect shopping or a prescription for you, they can help. They’re there if you need a friendly chat too.
To get help from them you need to call them on:
• 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm).
You can read more about NHS Volunteer Responders here.
Local coronavirus support groups
Local coronavirus support groups are organised through things like social media and WhatsApp. They aren’t face-to-face support groups where people meet. But people chat to each other and help each other through things like social media and WhatsApp.
They may be able to help with things like shopping, collecting prescriptions and providing phone calls to stop you feeling isolated.
You can go online and search for support groups in your local area. Or contact one of your local councillors and ask if they know of any groups. You can find details of your local councillors via the UK Government website.
How can I deal with a mental health crisis?
If you need urgent help you can do the following.
• Get in touch with your crisis contact. You might have been given a crisis contact by a mental health professional. Or your care plan might say who to contact in a crisis.
• Contact your local NHS urgent mental health helpline. Most areas will have one. In some areas this service is called the Single Point of Access team. You can find details of your local NHS urgent mental health helpline here or you can call NHS 111 to ask them for details.
• Contact your local NHS crisis team. The crisis team support people who are in a mental health crisis and need urgent help. You might need a medical or social care professional to refer you to the team. But you can ask the team about this if you aren’t sure. Sometimes you can refer yourself. You can find details or your local team by searching online. If you search ‘Crisis team X’, where X is your area, you should find your local team. Or you can ask your GP or call NHS 111.
• Ask your GP for an emergency appointment. GPs usually keep some appointments free for urgent cases. Your GP can make a referral to the local crisis team if necessary.
• You can call the emergency services on 999. They may then get in touch with mental health services such as the crisis team or take you to hospital if they think it’s necessary.
• You can contact NHS 111. The phone line is for when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency. You can call 111 if you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call. Or if you need health information or reassurance about what to do next.
• Call an emotional support line. Please see the information below under ‘How can I get emotional support?’
• Use Shout text service: You can text Shout to 85258 to connect to a trained person to help you. See Shout's website for more information.
Read our article on ‘Suicidal thoughts: How to cope’.
Read our article on 'Self-harm'.
How can I get emotional support?
Talking about how you feel can have big benefits. And people who care about you like friends and family are usually happy to listen and support you. But you can also call the following lines to talk about how you are feeling.
Can be contacted by telephone, e-mail and mini-com. They are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Telephone: 116 123
Work with anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers. They also provide a free text-based support service called Textcare and an online supportive forum community where anyone can share their experiences of mental health.
We offer confidential emotional support to children, young adults and adults by telephone and email.
Telephone: 01708 765200
Support people under 35 who are having suicidal feelings. And with people who are worried about someone under 35. Their helpline is open 9am – 10pm in the week. And between 2pm and 10pm at weekends and bank holidays.
Telephone: 0800 068 41 41
Text: 07786 209697
C.A.L.M. (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Aimed specifically at men. Their helpline is open between 5pm and midnight every day of the year.
Telephone: 0800 58 58 58
Webchat: through the website
Aimed at people over 55. The Silver Line operates the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.
Telephone: 0800 4 70 80 90
Aimed at people under 25. Their helpline is open between 4pm and 11pm, 7 days a week. They also run a crisis text service which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Telephone: 0808 808 4994
E-mail: through the website.
Crisis text message service: Text THEMIX to 85258
Webchat: through the website. (4pm - 11pm, 7 days a week - chats may not be connected after 10:15pm)
Aimed at anyone affected by a mood disorder, including friends, families and carers.
Telephone: 0161 832 37 36
This blog will be updated as more information becomes available. Last updated 20.07.20