Mental health during COVID-19
We are looking at practice across public sectors, to see how organisations are responding to the impact of COVID-19 and how they are working differently to provide services.
Our work has highlighted some areas relating to supporting people with mental health needs, which we thought would be good to share, so we will be tweeting about those this week. We have also identified some similar themes for people with learning disabilities needs, and we thought we would share those too.
I’ve been thinking quite a lot about mental health over the last few months since the outbreak of COVID-19.
At the risk of stating the obvious, we all have mental health. It would be nice to think of it simply as being well or unwell, but of course it is not as simple as that. We are on a rollercoaster of ups and downs and on a journey that we didn’t ask to make.
The onset of COVID-19 presented a number of challenges for us all, the obvious and immediate ones being physical – working from home, social distancing, kids home-schooling, shopping differently, and shielding for the most physically vulnerable to the virus.
We’ve all had to adapt very quickly to what is going on, and well if you are like me, I adapted to the physical changes quite quickly.
On the other hand, COVID-19 brought other factors such as uncertainty and lack of control, worry about friends and family, financial concerns, isolation and loss of a social connection, as well as a growing sense of frustration and general fatigue. Some have sadly had to cope with loss of loved ones or have had to cope with additional stress as key workers in high risk environments.
It is easy to talk about the physical challenges we face and have in common (ensuring we have enough loo roll, or the challenges of getting groceries). It’s not so easy to discuss the mental pressures and challenges we face, or how we are coping.
This is why mental health services and support is so important right now, particularly for those who needed support before COVID-19 impacted on our lives. Health and social care services have had to adapt quickly and quite rightly the focus needed to be on responding to the pandemic.
This has meant that some traditional services have had to stop, some have had to adapt and for some, new ways of doing things have been put in place.
Mental health and learning disability services are no different, and along with the normal/regular demand for services I’ve heard that, understandably, demand for mental health services is increasing.
In May, Mind (a national mental health charity) found that a quarter of people they spoke to with mental health needs couldn’t get access to the services they needed. Similar concerns have also been raised by people with learning disability needs.
Our work has identified examples of better information sharing, changes to the way services are delivered and how some communities are working to support each other.
Here are just a few examples, but see our tweets for more information and contribution:
- Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Trust have produced a range of You Tube videos [opens in new window] to explain COVID-19 and social distancing for people with learning disabilities.
- The Royal College of General Practitioners has made its entire eLearning content [opens in new window] freely available until 30th September 2020 to support all returning GPs and primary healthcare professions in response to COVID-19. This includes webinars on remote consulting for mental health issues and has information specific to people with learning disabilities and autism.
- Gwent Integrated Autism service has created a virtual service because face to face services are not possible. This example shows how, without significant investment, services can adapt to rapidly changing environments. Gwent Integrates Autism service has created this poster [opens in new window] to help communicate the changes to service users.
- Awen Cultural Trust and Bridgend County Borough Council are sharing a new programme called Stronger Together [opens in new window] to support the mental health and well-being of older people while lockdown is in place. It supports and encourages them to take up a new activity or share an existing interest with others.
The importance of good mental health and wellbeing was brought home to me when I participated in the Wales COVID-19 Wellbeing Survey [opens in new window] to help the NHS in Wales understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health and well-being of those living in Wales.
The survey only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete, so make a cuppa and give it a go.
Find out more information on our approach [opens in new window] for learning, sharing and inspiring.
About the author
Andrew Doughton is an Audit Lead in the Health team. He currently leads a range of national health studies, including orthopaedic services, and is the Audit Lead for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. He has been with Audit Wales and predecessor bodies since 2001.