“We’ve been able to adapt and be agile and find new ways of working that we’ve thought about previously."
Health in Mind is an Edinburgh based organisation supporting people across Scotland with their mental health and wellbeing. The organisation’s aim is to create a supportive and resilient community where mental health is understood and in which people can lead fulfilling lives. Operating since 1982, Health in Mind delivers trauma support and training, counselling and talking therapies and early intervention community-based support.
COVID-19 is creating substantial challenges for people when it comes to their mental health. Those with existing mental health concerns are being particularly affected by the imposed isolation and social distancing. Some people who may have never considered their mental health before or taken steps to look after their wellbeing are now facing difficulties and are looking for support. Worries relating to the virus and changes to daily life are increasing anxiety in people regardless of their pre-COVID experiences of mental health and wellbeing.
For Health in Mind, continuing to provide support in a number of ways was crucial. The organisation’s offerings span information provision on their websites to remote support. In terms of information provision, the organisation was quick to update its website, creating a COVID-19 section full of relevant information. Alana Genge, Communications Manager at Health in Mind stated that this service has proved indispensable: “Domestic violence searches have increased…in some areas above other COVID sections, so we’ve done lots of research around that to get information for people. Home isn’t a safe place for some people.” This example highlights the extended impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental health when they are facing additional challenges in their own home. Information on COVID-19 in general and signposting to other organisations that can support people with areas such as bereavement are also available, keeping people reliably informed at a time when information can be overwhelming.
The organisation has adapted its service model to continue to work with people previously engaging with services. Zoom has proved a useful tool and Health in Mind now offers a swathe of services via the platform. These range from online wellbeing courses, Wellness Recovery Action Plan courses and anxiety management drop-ins among other offerings. Where Zoom is not appropriate, or where people do not have access to the internet, telephone support is provided instead with Health in Mind determined not to leave anyone behind.
Given that COVID-19 is presenting new challenges for people who may not have sought support previously, Health in Mind is committed to reaching out to people in local communities to raise awareness of the organisation and its services. This has been an important response to the pandemic and has been achieved in one instance by including flyers in food delivery boxes distributed locally in Edinburgh. The organisation has been mindful in its use of language, ensuring its literature is inclusive and relatable and frames the topic in an engaging format to encourage people to seek support when they need it.
Despite the immediate challenges faced due to COVID-19, Health in Mind was able to quickly transition staff to working from home thanks to relatively recent changes to accessing the organisation’s systems which meant remote working was entirely feasible. However, the organisation is acutely aware of its duty of care to staff and has put practices in place to ensure people’s wellbeing is looked after. These include supporting staff to manage the new boundaries that come with supporting people from their own home, sharing learning and staff peer support.
In terms of reflecting on this period during COVID-19, Health in Mind staff are encouraged to note the positives that have come with new ways of working to inform practices going forward. Alana states that some good has come from our current situation: “We’ve been able to adapt and be agile and find new ways of working that we’ve thought about previously but not put into action. This has made us push ahead and do them with success, like with our online groups.”
We have seen themes come through in our Community in Action series and one is the agility of the third sector during COVID-19. Health in Mind, through prudent changes to ways of working, has been able to adapt its services rapidly to meet the needs of people when their mental health may be more challenged than at any other time. A lifeline for many, the organisation is providing essential support to communities across the country.