Long periods of reduced social interaction, limited family contact and enforced isolation has seen many people struggling with their mental wellbeing.
As lockdown eases and life slowly returns to normal, not everyone will feel confident about returning to their everyday life.
Our invaluable NHS has worked tirelessly to treat and counteract the effects of Covid-19, but now a new pandemic is looming, that of poor mental health.
Throughout lockdown dozens of local charities manned by hundreds of volunteers have shopped, made phone calls and delivered prescriptions to help those who could not help themselves and once again, the charity sector is stepping forward. This time to help those who are struggling with their mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Week, supported by the Mental Health Foundation, takes place from May 10-16 2021 and seeks to highlight those who can offer support to people who are struggling.
One such organisation is Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind who actively support people’s mental health in the community.
The charity’s ‘Side-by-Side’ flagship programme aims to support people’s mental health in the community.
The 1-2-1 all inclusive Side-by-Side support encourages users to do all kinds of activities to aid better mental health.
These include attending appointments, getting back out into the community and re-engaging with activities. The service helps users reach their potential and live life to the full.
It helps them to have personal control, to work out where they want to be and how they’re going to get there.
The Side-by-Side support service is initially operated by qualified Mental Health Support Workers who work with a client until they get to a point where the social worker can step to one side and a volunteer can take over.
Service and volunteer manager, Catherine Mason, said: “We couldn’t provide the service without volunteers.
“Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind covers a massive area of around 1000 square miles and we are always looking for 1-2-1 volunteers.
“Volunteers have four mandatory training sessions before becoming fully fledged and no experience is necessary.
“We do encourage people with their own lived experience, either their own or that of somebody close to them.”
Volunteers meet their service user alongside their social worker to ensure that the two are a perfect fit.
The aim is to help the service user engage in their surroundings, attend groups and appointments and accompany them on walks if they struggle to leave the house.
Ms Mason said: “Our service users are very much wanting to get back out and enjoy life to the full. They’re really excited about getting back out into the community.”
“If you listen, you hear so much more”
David Mellor 68, became involved with the charity after seeing a flyer in a local shop.
He said: “I used to be a driver for a local chemist and I saw in the shop a piece of paper which I read while I was in the queue. I left it a few weeks, but I kept coming back to it, so I thought why not?
“I did the training - it was about 2 hours for about 4 weeks and it was very interesting. Then I sat with my mentor opposite the person I was going to be working with.
“The trained professionals go in first and then give you parameters as to what they want you to try and do.
“You just give them your time. The other day, for example, it was breakfast and a cup of tea.”
David sees his Side-by-Side charge once a fortnight and phones him in the off week to make arrangements.
He said: “ I enjoy it so much, I love people's back stories. If you listen, you hear so much more than if you're talking.
“I’ve learnt so much from the current side-by-side person and we're just talking and having a laugh.”
“It’s starting to feel a bit more relaxed”
Helen Aitken, 52, became involved with the service while doing a counselling degree at York St. John University.
When she left university she continued to donate her time as a side-by-side companion at Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind where she has now been volunteering for around five years.
Like David, she works with her service user once a fortnight,
Helen, who works in a school with children with special needs, said: “If it’s not lockdown, we go out and shop and have a chat. It’s very rewarding and so laid back that I look forward to the visit and going out.
“You meet different people, who are really varied and you get to do different things. With one service user we went to a stained glass place and made a stained glass coaster.
“It’s been hard, Covid has been very restrictive in what we can and can’t do.
“But it’s starting to feel a bit more relaxed. It feels as though we’re on the way out as restrictions are lifted.”
“It is very rewarding to be able to help people”
Carol Stevens, a remote worker for Ryedale Carers Support, started volunteering for Mind about five years ago after seeing an advert at her local doctor’s surgery.
She said “I spoke to someone on the phone and then somebody came out and had a chat about it with me.
“I was invited to the offices to do training which was very good.
“They go through the do's and don'ts, confidentiality and how to do things.
“For the first person I met with the support worker and talked through info about her and she asked if I was happy to do it.
“It was a lady who struggled with anxiety and wanted somebody to help her get out of the house.
“You’re given support and told what role is and why you're there.”
Carol’s lady became more and more confident eventually going out on a scooter.
“I’ve worked with two that I’ve visited and two during covid with phone support.
“Phone support is very different to face-to-face support because you’re not with them, but it’s amazing how much you can find out on the phone.
“I really enjoy helping and supporting people doing something worthwhile. It is very rewarding and just nice to be able to help people.”
For Mental Health Awareness Week Mind are running a number of activities including Wellbeing Walks, drop-ins and craft sessions, most of which will take place outside to enable social distancing.
To find out more about the sessions or if you’re considering volunteering call the admin office on 01723 339 838 or email [email protected] to find out more.
Find advice about looking after your mental health and accessing support in North Yorkshire at www.northyorks.gov.uk/mentalhealth
You can also find details of local voluntary and community groups at www.northyorkshireconnect.org.uk