How our services are providing social connections during Covid-19

20/05/2020

Physical distancing has made it hard to connect with our friends and family. We can't meet friends in a group, or hug a family member you don’t live with, and - unless you’re their carer - you are no longer allowed to pop round and check up on a loved one. It’s hard for everyone right now. But for those of us living with severe mental illness, worries about receiving medication or speaking to a doctor can prove particularly troublesome. In the hundreds of groups and services that we have scattered across the country, staff have been finding a variety of ways to provide social connections to the people that need it most.

Kay Guise, Registered Care Manager, Moultrie Road

“At our services we have been able to support a service user in maintaining social contact with his brother, by utilising Skype. The two brothers for some time have had minimal social contact and their only contact was infrequent telephone calls, but by joint working with the brothers care team, we have been able to facilitate weekly Skype calls, which has improved the quality of their relationship, and has had a positive impact on both of their mental wellbeing.

  • At our services we have been able to support a service user in maintaining social contact with his brother, by utilising Skype.

Catherine Mercer, Head of Advocacy South

“The Mental Health Act office in Devon and Torbay have supported the two advocacy services in the area to ensure as much personal and direct contact as possible has been maintained though the Covid-19 lockdown period. Working in partnership with the service new welcome letters are being distributed to all new patients. The services were one of the first to establish routine Skype links/meetings between patients and advocates with ward staff setting aside set times to wheel a member of staff (via a laptop link) around on a trolley to speak to every patient on the ward this is now being rolled out across the county.”

Katie Foulser, Head of Community Services South

“The Oxford Carers service ran its first ever virtual carers group on Thursday 30th April - 6 - 8 pm. Our amazing volunteer Alice who facilitates the Oxford City Carers monthly group took the lead to set up the virtual group using Microsoft Teams. Alice contacted the group members individually to guide them through the MS Team server and she sent out the invites and joining instructions.

We decided to open the group up to all mental health carers across the county as our other groups are currently suspended due to the Covid19 lockdown.”

Lewis Chambers, Head of Community Services for Plymouth and Cornwall

“We had to stay up to date with the conditions/restrictions of the lockdown and provided remote support to our client’s weekly rather than fortnightly. Ensuring that they felt fully supported and reassured by our dedicated knowledgeable staff. We have ensured the clients have continued to receive useful information i.e. help line numbers, apps, food bank details and other links, in order to reduce any anxieties or risks of isolation.”

Kirsty Nastasi, Registered Manager, Cavendish Lodge

“One of our service users has a twin sister that lives approximately 10 miles away, in supported care. Prior to Covid-19, her twin sister would visit every day for a cup of tea and a chat. The service had been in isolation for a month before lockdown, so we had already started to support the service user by calling her sister on a regular basis. However they missed seeing each other, so we contacted the care service her sister lives at and arranged to carry out a video call for their 60th birthday.

  • We contacted the care service her sister lives at and arranged to carry a video call for their 60th birthday.

"We also had a mini birthday party via whatsapp. This was fantastic as they could see each other and continue to celebrate their 60th birthday together.
She also had video calls family members including her daughter who is a cello player, we arranged with her to send us a short video of her playing before setting up another video call. She is now very eager for more to be set up over the next couple of weeks as she feels it is easier to see the person she talking to rather than just the phone line.”

Nicola Hall, Quality & Integration Lead, Warwickshire Employment Service

“We are contacting the more vulnerable clients who live alone by telephone, email and in a couple of cases by letter to offer support. We also have an art group which I have delivered virtually, we chose a theme ever week and people send me their art which I have put up on our social media”

 

Although it is difficult to maintain social connections in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is possible. Those of us severely affected by mental illness may need this social support during these testing times. It's clear that social connections are integral in creating communities that care for people living with mental illness.

Here's five ways that you can join us in our bid to create communities that care.

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