You may have seen, heard about, or even used our Free Talking Therapy Service during the lockdown-we sure did get about! We had no idea that our little company would play such a huge roll in answering so many calls for mental health support from all walks of life from across the bay. From late March to July, we supported over 70 individuals not only struggling with the lockdown but gaining any access to any mental health support shy of a 6-month wait. During this time, we quickly became the first point of call for many professionals, including social prescribers, health visitors, carers and GPs. Below is the story of what we achieved from a pulling together and a budget of ZERO to what we are doing now.
What We Did
At the end of March, and before Zoom fatigue set in, we had an online meeting to discuss how despite the clinic being closed we could continue to support our community especially those who will be even more cut off from society because of the lockdown. We concluded that we would try to set up a free talking therapy service with practitioners volunteering their time to take calls.
In just under two weeks we had everything in place; volunteer talking therapy practitioners, we had digital posters, social media posts, a website page, an online referral system and a manned telephone to receive the calls 12 hours a day 7 days a week.
Little did we know that with a few shares on social media and a few emails here and there that GP’s, social prescribers, social workers, carers, and helpline workers would be calling us daily to help them support the mental health of Torbay.
For each call that we received, we made it our mission to contact the person in need within 24 hours, something nearly all of those we spoke to had never even heard of let alone experienced.
The free telephone service ran until the end of July. During that time, the support provided enabled those struggling with their mental health during the lockdown not only immediate access to a professional but regular talking therapy for up to four weeks.
We supported over 70 individuals in Torbay accumulating over 280 free hours of mental health support.
Closing the service was a sad decision, but as the calls dwindled and our practitioners, like us, returned to the clinic, we knew the service had run its course.
Trish Thomas is one of several counsellors at The Devon Clinic. Her specialities include; depression, stress, anxiety, domestic & psychological abuse, gender diversity, family relationships, low self-esteem, recovery from eating disorders, addiction and substance abuse, postnatal depression and fertility issues. Trish particularly enjoys working creatively where appropriate as this can be a way to express difficult emotions.
Trish has written a short case study about an individual she supported during the lockdown on our talking therapy service. Please note some details, including the client’s name have been changed to protect their identity.
“Alison was referred to me during May 2020, midway through the lockdown period. Initially, Alison had severe anxiety; a mixture of social anxiety and fear about catching the coronavirus. She had been signed off from her job by her GP, as she was unable to work due to her extreme anxiety about both catching COVID-19 and transmitting it to the elderly residents of the care home in which she worked. Her employers were not sympathetic, despite her previous good record, and had decided to give Alison a formal warning. This caused her huge distress and guilt about letting down her patients. She began to fear that everyone she met was judging her. When we first spoke, Alison was unable to leave the house.
After three phone calls, in which we explored Alison’s fears and looked at what might be behind them, Alison felt confident enough to go for walks in her neighbourhood while maintaining social distancing. She also learned some techniques such as mindfulness and staying in the present moment to manage some of the symptoms of her anxiety.
Together, we slowly re-expanded Alison’s horizons, so that by our sixth and final call, she was able to meet with a close friend at a distance and to drive to see her elderly father in the garden of his home. Reluctantly, she decided to resign from her job, as she no longer felt that the work environment in the care home was right for her. She had become much less worried about how others saw her, recognising those fears as signs of her social anxiety. She felt strong enough to continue without my support.”
What The Professionals Said
We had heard all along how our telephone service was really helping those in need, but we wanted to know from those services utilising us what impact it was having on them, and this is what we received;
We knew the free service had come to an end, but we still wanted to support our community’s mental health because waiting times will continue to climb regardless of a pandemic and even more so because of one.
This is when we turned to The National Lottery Awards For All. We have been successful with applications in the past, and they are currently funding our Single Parent Stress Management Programme.
It is with thanks in part to Jane and Beth’s feedback that we were successful in our application. We are now able to continue providing mental health support to those adversely affected by COVID-19 at our clinic in Hyde road.
For more information about our COVID talking therapy service, eligibility and how to access please click HERE
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