Throughout Covid-19, our staff and partners have risen to the challenge of supporting people living with mental health issues in the Humber, Coast and Vale area. We’ve kept our focus on community support and found new and innovative ways of delivering our services.

Michele Moran, Senior Responsible Officer for the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership's Mental Health Programme

Mental health and wellbeing is vital in maintaining physical health and health in general and never has this been more apparent than during the last few months.

I would like to start by thanking our staff, carers, volunteers, charities for maintaining services and supporting our communities. The response over the last four months from all the partners in Humber, Coast and Vale and across our mental health and learning disabilities services has been tremendous.

Throughout this difficult time, our staff and partners have risen to the challenge of supporting people living with mental health issues in the Humber, Coast and Vale area. We’ve kept our focus on community support and found new and innovative ways of delivering our services including offering online consultations. Our partners are building on their relationships and working together more closely than ever before, which can only be positive as we continue to look to integrate delivery of mental health services.

Whilst dealing with this, our programme of work has continued particularly in the areas of suicide prevention, perinatal services and improving access to psychological therapies as we drive forward to meet the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

The pandemic caused many of us to feel afraid, concerned and worried about our loved ones and society as a whole. There has also been a huge emotional impact for many people with reports of elevated stress and anxiety and increased levels of loneliness.

The impacts of changes to our usual routines and behaviours also means that we expect to see a reported rise in depression, alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour. The Partnership will support and continue to develop and provide services in order to meet the challenges that lay ahead.

We know, from looking to other countries such as China and Italy, to expect our own surge in demand for mental health services as people look for help and support as they deal with the impact of the outbreak. The Partnership is modelling data, reviewing research and learning from international systems in order to help us plan for the rising demand that we are beginning to see and that will no doubt increase over the coming months, if not years as all the effects of Covid-19 are felt.

We know one of the groups which are struggling with the changes to their lives during Covid-19 are young people. In a recent survey by Young Minds, 83 per cent of respondents said coronavirus has made their mental health worse. With the stay-at-home guidance meaning they had reduced social interaction with their friends and the lack of routine and structure caused by school closures as well as anxiety about the future, it is an unsettling time for many including those that have never experienced mental health issues before.

We acknowledged this early in the outbreak and on 1st April we launched the Kooth online counselling platform across Hull, East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, with the service already available in the other areas of Humber, Cast and Vale since late 2019.

We have seen over 4,200 log ins to this digital mental health support service which allows our children and young people to get quick access to qualified professionals who can offer support and advice without the need for referrals or waiting lists.

We are really pleased with the uptake of Kooth so far and the fact that this gives our younger population greater choice about how they engage with mental health support. We were delighted to receive confirmation that we had been successful in being awarded two further Mental Health Support Teams to work in schools across the Humber, Coast and Vale area.

We are pleased to say that our Bereavement by Suicide services are now in place across the whole footprint and we believe that it is more important than ever that those who have lost a loved one to suicide, get the right support at the right time.

Our suicide prevention campaign, #TalkSuicide, has been active throughout the last four months with more than 2,600 visits to the Talk Suicide website, which aims to reduce the stigma around talking about suicide by raising awareness of free suicide prevention training available from the Zero Suicide Alliance.

We are now finalising the suicide prevention transformation funding for 2020/21, to ensure funding continues to flow to services, public health teams and voluntary and community services, which will see more prevention programmes being delivered across the local places and communities.

With the challenges that lie ahead, we know that having the right workforce in place will be vital. The Humber, Coast and Vale steering group is now focused in ways which we can all work together to support our teams’ wellbeing and development whilst at the same time looking at how we build our workforce of the future.

Covid-19 put unprecedented pressures on our NHS workforce. We know that if we want to continue to deliver our services through and beyond Covid-19 we need to make sure that our staff are well supported and can develop and maintain their own resilience.

Our proposed new ‘Resilience Hubs’ will support staff by providing intensive and evidence-based therapeutic interventions, either on 1:1 basis or via groups. They will also deliver specialist training, advice, consultation and clinical supervision to enhance knowledge and skills amongst professionals in all relevant sectors. This will support individuals to prevent relapse and install resilience post-therapy. These hubs will be for all key worker staff then open to the general public.

Clearly, none of this work would have been possible without the fantastic support of all our partners and in particular the hard work of staff working to deliver these new services to patients living in the Humber, Coast and Vale area.

Leo Stevens

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