Prioritising Mental Health support during the Coronavirus outbreak

Published: 21 May 2020

When speaking with Debbie Barratt, Service Manager at Townend Court, we learned more about how our Hull Community Mental Health Teams and Psychosis Service for People in Hull and East Riding (PSYPHER) teams are coping with the increase in mental health presentations during the COVID-19 crisis.

At a time like this, prioritising your mental wellbeing is essential. It’s challenging time for everyone, and speaking to our mental health professionals reaffirms the notion that it’s more important than ever for people to find what kind of mental health support works for them.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, #KindnessMatters. We want to take this opportunity to thank our mental health teams for the amazing work they do every day to support those who are struggling and to break the stigma associated with mental health.

How have your services changed during the COVID-19 crisis?

Quite significantly. We’re following Trust and Governmental guidance at all times, which has meant a substantial decrease in face to face contact with patients. We are doing our best to deliver everything digitally, however, there are some urgent interventions and medication reviews which still go ahead as normal.

We’re regularly in contact with our service users, so I’m proud to say that connection is being maintained well. Also, we’re creatively developing some telephone therapies and extended appointments to be able to meet the needs of our patients for the long term.

Before COVID, we were a part of the national pilot regarding transforming community mental health teams, and as part of this initiative, one of our main goals was to reduce our wait lists significantly. We are so proud to say that we achieved this goal, and now it’s about putting in the work to maintain it, despite the change in circumstances and the subsequent increase in mental health interventions and development of some waiting times as a result.


How have patients responded to these new ways of working?

Very well, we’ve been extremely impressed by and grateful for the positive response. The vast majority of our service users are responding well to the new forms of support and, although there has been an increase in demand, we are continuously learning how to spot the different ways in which people are presenting with mental health problems, as a result of things such as social distancing and isolation. In turn, this allows us to provide improved services during a particularly challenging time.


What have you learned from this experience?

How flexible people are, definitely. Not only have our patients been so understanding, but staff have been working creatively to come up with new solutions and accommodate new and increasing patient needs.

Our staff are incredible, they’re always willing to learn, adapt and work longer hours where needed to get things going. They have all been wonderful.

Also, due to social distancing, we’ve had to try out systems we never thought we would need to use and actually, we’ve learned that despite any initial teething problems, they actually work really well and improve our ways of working. We’re constantly reviewing these new things and deciding what we would like to take forward with us in our business continuity plans.


How are your team coping during this time?

For me, it’s so important that two things are considered. The first one is that patients who are isolated are supported adequately, and the second is that our staff who are isolated or coming into work are supported equally as well. In roles like ours it can be easy to forget to look after yourself, but it’s essential. And for this reason we’re also constantly reviewing our staff wellbeing guidance and procedures as well.

I think our staff are doing a remarkable job. They always do what’s asked of them and nothing is ever too much to ask. They’re all very committed to continue to deliver our services in the best way possible.

I’d actually like to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment at this time. Working in these circumstances can be really tough; I want to say that I know how hard you are working and, although it can be difficult in a busy world to make sure everyone knows it, you are all valued and appreciated. Thank you.


It’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week, is there anything you would like to say in support of this?

I think it would just be that, despite the increase and complexity of demand at this time, don’t be afraid to seek help. Your local mental health support teams might be busy, but they are certainly not too busy for you if you need help.

To those who have already sought help, keep going with the skills you have learned so far. It’s important that everyone finds what works or them and that when you do, you stick with it. This will help you feel better. Take each day as it comes; we understand that the current circumstances are exceptionally challenging, but please know help is available if you need it.

Need mental health support?

Please visit our contact us page to find the most suitable support for you.

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