Extra Support for Mental Health

Extra support has been provided by NHS Forth Valley for those struggling with mental health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has included a new service which offers people up to three telephone or video appointments with a healthcare professional who is able to listen, help them understand their distress, provide appropriate coping strategies and, where appropriate, refer them to other services which can provide crisis or longer-term support. Accessed through referral from a GP or mental health nurses based in local practices, around 200 people have benefited from the new service over the last three months.

Mental Health information packs have also been delivered to carers centres across Forth Valley. These 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.

In addition, a range of support is available for local health, social care and care home staff. These include drop in centres, relaxation and mindfulness sessions, a listening service, psychology and counselling support.

Dr Jennifer Borthwick

Dr Jennifer Borthwick, Head of Psychological Services, NHS Forth Valley

NHS Forth Valley’s Head of Psychological Services, Dr Jennifer Borthwick, said it was unsurprising that many people had greater difficulties managing their emotional wellbeing during the pandemic.

She explained: “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 wellbeing, 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.”

Although Covid-19 has impacted on some routine mental health services, throughout that 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.

Many of the new services and resources developed during the pandemic have proved so popular that staff are planning to continue to make these available. They also want to use the learning 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.

NHS Forth Valley’s Head of Psychological Services, Dr Jennifer Borthwick is keen to make sure people continue to look after themselves and each other. She 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.”

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
  • The NHS Forth Valley website also has a range of resources for commonly experienced mental health issues and difficulties
  • Clear your Head – contains a range of practical tips and advice including how to feel calmer
  • Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87 (evenings and weekends) is a free, confidential, phone service for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16, who is experiencing low mood, depression, anxiety or a crisis related to your mental health.
  • Samaritans – 01698 429411 or 116 123 (24hrs) will provide support to manage your emotional well-being and also provide information to help promote the well-being of others.