Since lockdown began – the mental health charity Bath Mind has had a 200% increase in calls from people experiencing isolation and anxiety.
That’s according to the charity’s CEO Kate Morton who heads one of the local charities involved in a Covid Consequences Zoom meeting arranged by the MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse.
Ms Morton said mental health issues were not letting up; and that money matters, job losses and relationship breakdowns are contributing to this.
Four local charities reported on their work supporting those dealing with mental health issues, financial hardship and domestic abuse since lockdown began, and outlined the challenges ahead.
Wera Hobhouse said:
“I convened this meeting so that we could discuss some of the pandemic’s most challenging aspects. As an MP, I am especially concerned about the most vulnerable in our city. Bath prides itself on being a compassionate community. This spirit manifested itself in the brilliant work of B&NES 3SG, BANES Council, our CCG and Virgin Care, who came together in record time when Covid hit to create the Compassionate Community Hub.
In the months ahead, some in our midst will continue to face severe difficulties. It’s reassuring to know that our dedicated organisations are doing their utmost for residents. But as charities they need our support to deliver their services.”
Will Reed, Youth Advisor at Boys in Mind/Girls Mind Too, a local youth-led organisation with a particular focus on boys and young men, said:
“As young people we have faced our own challenges with our education being disrupted. My school, Beechen Cliff, pioneered a very effective whole-school approach to mental health with students working in partnership with staff. I was lucky with my A-level results but I know people who did not get the grades they should have and had to postpone their plans to go to university.
“Some of us have used this time to reflect on society and the injustices we see around us. It’s been so important to support each other by sharing our coping methods. We made films to express ourselves and communicate with each other, creating a Black Lives Matter video and our ‘Getting Through This Together’ film campaign. The key lies in building our resilience.”
Kate Morton, Chief Executive of Bath Mind and Chair of B&NES 3SG, said:
“Since lockdown began, Bath Mind has had a 200% increase in calls from people experiencing isolation and anxiety. Mental health issues are not letting up; money matters, job losses and relationship breakdowns are contributing to this.
“The Compassionate Community Hub, which was established at the beginning of the pandemic, has enabled a multi-agency response to the crisis – providing a holistic support structure. In response to those growing numbers of people who are digitally excluded, we have created wellbeing packs to support those vulnerable and isolated individuals.
“We are in a mental health crisis. Over the next six months we need to strengthen our
joint efforts. Apart from Covid, one of the greatest killers will be loneliness and isolation.”
Les Redwood, Chief Executive, Bath & North East Somerset Citizens Advice, and Trustee of B&NES 3SG said:
“The Compassionate Community Hub has made contact with 7,800 people since March. We were able to do this because we were prepared to think creatively. We must continue to find innovative ways of reaching those in need, and the means to sustain this work into the future beyond Covid.
“Covid has shone a floodlight on the poverty gap in this country. We have seen a big rise in debt issues, and we anticipate a 60% increase as people come off furlough and other government support runs out. With demand for our help surging, we are fortunate to have five new debt advisors starting this week, thanks to funding from St John’s Foundation and the Quartet Foundation.”
Ursula Lindenberg, Chief Executive of VOICES, a Bath-based charity founded by women who have experienced domestic abuse, said:
“We offer a holistic service to those anywhere on the journey recovering from domestic abuse. We work primarily with women and support whole families; anyone can self-refer. Domestic abuse is a whole society issue. The coercive control aspect of domestic abuse is invisible, and more so during lockdown.
In fact, ‘lockdown’ is a very good word to describe the experience of domestic abuse. Over the past months, we have seen the long-term effects of stress on our clients and need for mental health support growing. The family court system too is under pressure. We have established a hardship fund for families, and after offering our services remotely, are piloting socially-distanced groups.”
For more information about each of the charities mentioned above, please visit their websites:
● Boys in Mind, Girls Mind Too – https://boysinmind.co.uk/
● Bath Mind – https://www.bathmind.org.uk/
● Citizens Advice Bath & North East Somerset – https://www.citizensadvicebanes.org.uk/
● VOICES – http://www.voicescharity.org/
● B&NES 3SG – https://www.3sg.org.uk/