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FOCUS: Is there a mental health crisis looming?

FOCUS: Is there a mental health crisis looming?

Monday 29 June 2020

FOCUS: Is there a mental health crisis looming?


While the full impact that corona virus crisis, and lockdown, have had on islanders’ mental health is still unknown, local charities are calling for the government to step up to make sure people can get the support they need, as soon as possible.

The Government has yet to publish details of how mental health services will be enhanced as part of their lockdown 'Exit Strategy', despite the latter having been published nearly a month ago.

Deputy Kevin Pamplin, who sits on the Health and Social Security Panel, requested that this information be included as part of the strategy via an amendment which was later adopted by the States Assembly. 

He said the island needed to see the same urgency seen during the covid-19 crisis applied to mental health to make sure all necessary services are available and in sync. 

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Pictured: Deputy Kevin Pamplin asked how mental health services will be provided and enhanced as part of Government's lockdown Exit Strategy.

In the report accompanying his proposals, Deputy Kevin Pamplin wrote: “The intention behind the Amendment is to ensure that the impact on Islanders’ mental health is addressed at each stage of any new strategy, and to allow the Mental Health services to adopt a more proactive approach to the support offered. 

“The Island’s Mental Health services have reacted to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic with great speed, while keeping the needs and concerns of their patients in the heart of all they do, and they should be congratulated in achieving this. However, the earlier they are made aware of the strategic stages, the sooner they can determine the level and type of support that will be required.” 

Despite growing concerns that a mental health crisis might be looming and further relaxations in lockdown measures, the government has not released any more details about the provision of mental health services. 

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Pictured: Patricia Winchester, CEO of MyVoice Jersey.

The CEO of a local advocacy charity which supports islanders who are being treated on the psychiatric wards suggested this should include a “clear communications strategy” that would ensure islanders know what kind of support is available and where and what is the most appropriate for their needs.

A virtual hub could be a useful for islanders to find out about services, she added.

Patricia Winchester also said the government should keep staff resources as flexible as possible.

“Jersey Talking Therapies will be coming under pressure because a lot of people who normally feel well might become stressed as a result of life changes such as losing their jobs or having been in lockdown,” she said.

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Pictured: Patricia Winchester said the government should keep staff resources as flexible as possible.

Ms Winchester says there’s already a rise in the demand for mental health services, although it’s difficult to say how sustained it will be.

“This has been really difficult for everyone,” she said. “Home working is great but it’s very isolating. If somebody was not feeling great it could push them off the edge.   

“Some people who have a mental illness might have deteriorated and have not sought support. We need to make sure they all feel comfortable to access services. The community mental health team has to be very proactive reaching out for people.”

Speaking of islanders themselves, Ms Winchester urged them to see their doctors as quickly as possible. 

“Try to focus on positive things,” she added. “Accept that these have been challenging times and that you might not have the energy to do a run every day.

“Try not to self-isolate, speak to other people, seek support from family and friends. Do things that you enjoy, try and keep a good routine and structure to your day and engage and feel confident in the support that is available.”

Stephen McCrimmon, Carer and Family Support Manager at Mind Jersey, also warned there might an increasing number of islanders needing support in the coming months. 

“It’s a new territory for everybody, we’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.

“We all had to isolate. Sometimes peoples can deal with a crisis because their mind is able to associate the stress levels with the crisis but when the crisis subsides that stress can still remain, we sometimes call it an after effect or after bomb, and you can see people starting to have mental health issues.”

Over lockdown, Mind Jersey proactively adapted its services to continue to provide support to islanders either through a newly established helpline or via zoom meetings. 

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Pictured: "Whatever way you have been affected by the covid crisis, we are here, we want to support you."

In addition, the team is working on several pieces of work to make sure services are available as soon as someone might feel changes with their mental health, rather than waiting until it gets worse.

Mind Jersey is also working closely with the Listening Lounge and the Recovery College to cover as wide a field as possible.

 “There is an element that we do not know, however we have pre-empted that by being proactive and making sure services are easy to access for a wide range of islanders.

“We want to tell them, ‘whatever way you have been affected by the covid crisis, we are here, we want to support you, services are available and we want to make this as easy as possible for you’.”

 

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