"From the moment of crisis, we have been working hard to provide people an opportunity to connect every single day."
Champion and Director of Moray Wellbeing Hub, Heidi Tweedie, sat down with the ALLIANCE’s Will Griffiths for an interview about the impact of the community’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the integration process in Moray and her hopes for the future. You can see the full interview on the ALLIANCE Live page (this link will take you away from our website) and below is a lightly edited transcript of Heidi telling about how Moray Wellbeing Hub have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Moray Wellbeing Hub is a social enterprise and host a social movement for the area of Moray in North East Scotland. Our network of community champions work to create new community and virtual spaces that welcome everyone to live more mentally healthy lives, challenging stigma at all levels. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, we were working at a local level in community halls and in statutory partners’ buildings running self management courses, support groups and one to one support.
Of course, all that’s had to change – we’ve moved all our activity online and using phone. From the moment of crisis, we have been working hard to provide people an opportunity to connect every single day. The focus in everything we do is underpinned by CHIME – Connection, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment. We have that as a framework for everything we do, from reflective practice as individual champions, evaluation tools for when we run things and built into our governance.
Having those values and that framework in place really helped our quick response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It meant we’re able to harness the desire of people to help quickly. In practice this meant,
- Starting lunchtime check-ins with our champions over Zoom
- CHIME chats open to anyone in the locality area
- Developing and delivering the Principles of Mental Health First Aid sessions
- Delivering session on coping skills for young people, with sessions for under 16s and 16 to 25 year olds
- Hosting resilience and calm sessions for parents
- Facebook advertising of these sessions turned out to be a big success
We’ve been really impressed with the community’s willingness to engage with things, with people delivering food and prescriptions. There is a lot of good will out there, but an immediate concern for us was how to ensure that the structures are in place to support this good will – PVGs, safeguarding, and looking after their own wellbeing are all vitally important.
We were concerned that people without experience of engagement and community resilience may not use strength-based language and may be inadvertently stigmatising in seeking out people they see as vulnerable. This is especially the case for mental health stigma, some of the language people using quite limited and not as inclusive as it could be. We encourage everyone to move away from talking about ‘finding the vulnerable people’ and towards to asset-based, strength-based language.
Community resilience does not happen overnight. It’s so important to make use of existing structures and expertise – that’s why having our existing structures in place and the underpinning framework of CHIME has proved so valuable. We have focused on trying to support those with energy to lead to do so with the best knowledge and resources. The training in Principles of Mental Health First Aid for example was in direct response to identified need by volunteer supervisors in food delivery.
Going forward I am concerned that many more people are going to be impacted by mental health problems than earlier. But we’re not yet seeing those people in large numbers, we suspect this is a stigma issue – people not recognising their own needs could be supported or waiting for things to get worse before reaching out. If people don’t have an existing relationship then they are not using the services. This could have a large impact further down the line with resources not matching the need and demand.
We need to ensure that in the recovery of the pandemic is inclusive, equal and fair. That will involve making use of the existing support and properly resourcing them to deal with an increase in the need to support people’s wellbeing.”