New services include telephone or video appointments with a healthcare professional who is able to listen and help people understand their distress, as well as provide appropriate coping strategies and, where appropriate, refer them to other services which can provide crisis or longer-term support.
These appointments are accessed through referral from a GP or mental health nurses based in local practices and NHS Forth Valley claims around 200 people have already benefited from the service over the last three months.
Mental Health information packs have also been delivered to carers centres across Forth Valley.
They contain a wide range of information and advice including strategies for reducing distress, practical tips on how to explain COVID-19 to people with dementia or a learning disability, supporting people with dementia or a learning disability to engage in meaningful activities at home and how to help people with dementia or a learning disability to manage hand washing and tolerate being cared for by someone who may be wearing PPE.
And the NHS Forth Valley is also trying to look after the mental health and well being of health care, social care and care home staff, who have also had to cope with more pressure and stress during the lockdown period.
Services for staff include drop-in centres, relaxation and mindfulness sessions, a listening service, psychology and counselling support.
Dr Jennifer Borthwick, NHS Forth Valley’s head of psychological services, said: “Everyone has had to adjust to major changes in their daily routines. Initially most
people had no or limited access to many of the things which support our mental health and well being, such as exercise classes, meeting up with friends and being able to see extended family.
“In addition, many people were very anxious about the possibility of them or their loved ones becoming unwell. The vast majority of people who have experienced psychological symptoms due to COVID-19 have not needed to seek support from specialist mental health services and have been able to manage this within their own social and family networks.
“However for others, who may already have been struggling to cope, have faced greater changes, additional financial or job worries, lost someone close or had a smaller group of support to begin with, this has been much harder and they have required additional help.”
According to NHS Forth Valley, although COVID-19 impacted some routine mental health services, throughout the lockdown period, services were maintained for people who were at risk or in crisis.
Staff have also continued to maintain contact via video and telephone consultations and many people have also been able to access a range of resources while they were waiting to be seen.
These include Silver Cloud, an online support programme to help target COVID-19-related stress, depression, social anxiety, health anxiety, and the emotional impact of conditions such as heart disease, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and lung conditions.
During online sessions people can watch video clips, complete exercises and learn CBT techniques that can help with depression and anxiety.
Training was provided to help a range of healthcare teams deliver psychologically informed care and support information and advice was sent to people currently receiving support as well as those waiting to be seen.
NHS Forth Valley stated many of the new services and resources developed during the pandemic have proved so popular staff are planning to continue to make these available.
They also want to use what has been learned over the last few months to redesign existing mental health services to make them more accessible and provide support to people at an earlier stage while they are waiting to be seen.
Dr Borthwick said: “The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in different ways physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically. This is normal and I’d encourage anyone who is experiencing heightened levels of stress or anxiety to have a look at the wide range of self-help materials available on NHS Inform or contact their GP Practice for advice.”
Here are some of the services people can access if they need them:
Mental Health - Support and Advice
NHS Inform has a range of self-help guides covering depression, anxiety, stress, coping with money worries, dealing with traumatic events and peole can log onto www.nhsinform.scot/self-help-guides for more information.
People can also visit www.nhsforthvalley.com/mentalhealthresources and www.clearyourhead.scot.
Breathing Space can be found at www.breathingspacescotland.co.uk or accessed at evenings and during weekends by calling 0800 83 85 87 for free by anyone over the age of 16 experiencing low mood, depression, anxiety or a crisis related to mental health.
Samaritans are also available 24 hours a day by calling 01698 429411 or 116 123 or by visiting www.samaritans.org [email protected]