Kent and Medway residents are being reminded of support services available during COVID-19 as Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) highlights the theme of kindness.
Health partners and providers, local authorities, emergency services and community groups across the county are working together to provide local support services to help people’s mental wellbeing during the ongoing pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
“The challenging reality of lockdown is creating uncertainty and anxiety for many,” explains Kent County Council Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark. “The constant news can feel overwhelming and you may be adjusting to a different way of life, with children off school, many people not working or working from home, as well as not seeing family, friends and colleagues.”
He adds: “This anxiety is natural, and we are all feeling it. Fortunately, there are things that we can do to protect our mental health and to support the wellbeing of our friends and family. At www.kent.gov.uk/wellbeing you can find information, advice and signposting to other great sites which can help, whatever your situation and need. This is #kenttogether.”
Information is available via www.kent.gov.uk/wellbeing for people experiencing bereavement and loss, debt and financial difficulties, pregnant women and new mums needing extra support, families looking for help with young children or teenagers.
There is also signposting to support for those who might already have pre-existing mental health conditions, are victims of domestic abuse or are people in the shielded community.
The site also directs to help for people with learning disabilities, people who don’t use English as a first language, carers and NHS staff, care staff and other key workers.
Lauretta Kavanagh, Mental Health Programme Director for the NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“Looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health. The NHS is here to support you with your mental wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as your physical health.
“This has been a challenging time for everyone, and there are many services to help you stay well. Feelings of anxiety, loneliness or restlessness are understandable right now. Remember that you are not alone.
“As far as you can, open up about what is happening to you. Please pick up the phone or go online to reach out if you need help.”
One of the locally available support campaigns is the Release the Pressure helpline and text service – you can text the word “Kent” or “Medway” to 85258, where you will start a conversation with one of the many trained and experienced volunteers. Or you can call 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff on this freephone number 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
The service is funded by the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) which is a collaboration between Kent County Council, Medway Council, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and all the NHS organisations across Kent and Medway.
James Williams, Director of Public Health at Medway Council, said: “We have all been affected by the coronavirus and are adapting to new ways of working, communicating and interacting with our families, friends and people within our local community. This prolonged transition will have had an impact on our mental health and wellbeing. It is important for us all to know that help and support is available should we need it. We have health and wellbeing advice for residents on our website, www.medway.gov.uk/coronavirus and I would encourage anyone who needs support, to use the Release the Pressure mental wellbeing service, by texting Medway to 85258.”
Jacquie Mowbray-Gould, Chief Operating Officer for Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, said: “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with our partner organisations across the county to create a place for people to access the mental health support and wellbeing advice they may need during these difficult times.
“We know that these are extremely challenging times and many people are experiencing extreme pressures which impacts on their health and wellbeing. It is therefore vital that we continue to support our communities with any information and quick access to a range of services and support they may need to keep themselves safer, happier and healthier.”
Meanwhile, vulnerable people in Kent who need urgent help, supplies or medication are also reminded of the helpline – called Kent Together – which provides a single, convenient point of contact for anyone in the county who is in urgent need of help during the Coronavirus outbreak.
It is a collaboration between KCC, central Government, District, Borough and local councils, the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and other partners to ensure help is at hand for vulnerable people.
If you are vulnerable and have an urgent need that cannot be met through existing support networks, you can contact the Kent Together helpline at www.kent.gov.uk/KentTogether or by calling on 03000 41 92 92. It is a 24-hour service.