Wellbeing Scotland has been agile in adapting services to support people through the challenges of COVID-19.
Wellbeing Scotland provide counselling, befriending, advocacy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, art therapy, play therapy and group support to people whose adverse life circumstances have had any impact of their wellbeing. They have Scotland wide specialist services for people who have experienced abuse or trauma and people with mental health issues. Responding to the needs of people who are disadvantaged in multiple ways is something they are passionate about supporting to improve lives.
Janine Rennie, Chief Executive of Wellbeing Scotland, said: “Since COVID-19 became part of public awareness we have seen a large increase in people accessing our services. We have seen a rise in suicidal ideation where people are really struggling with finding ongoing hope in the crisis. Many people have contacted us with significant anxiety as they already had health problems and phobias about illness. Some reported spending all night lying awake thinking about the risks. Isolation has been a factor, particularly for those who are shielding and/or in the older age groups. For the people we supported before COVID-19, many are asking for support more than once a week. Some are attending counselling while also asking for our help with access to food parcels.”
For Wellbeing Scotland, moving to online support was a priority, they realised before the lockdown. They reviewed the organisation’s business continuity plan daily. They applied to the Wellbeing Fund initial stages for equipment. At that time finding new laptops anywhere was a challenge but luckily by ordering them right away they could be issued to the workers. Phones were moved onto a virtual switchboard. The team started attending as many forums online as they could to develop partnerships for a co-ordinated response. Some of the relationships built have been very positive and helpful.
Janine said: “It is now an integral part of our work to offer online and telephone support. Many of those coming for help enjoy the accessibility of this new way of working. They want us to keep it going. We have joined in with peer support groups supporting large groups of people. Together we raised spirits with our Macarena challenge where staff and those accessing our services posted videos of them dancing the Macarena. We even had an MSP take part!”
Self management is a vital part of the work of Wellbeing Scotland. The groups who were involved in developing the self management activities are meeting regularly online with many fun activities. Wellbeing Scotland has developed resources on relaxation and anxiety management for those not ready to attend groups. And physical health resources for abuse survivors are also being developed into a self-management pack.
One of the main challenges for people with long term physical and mental health issues is a fear of asking for help for ongoing health issues with the current crisis. Giving support and assistance to do so has been vital.
Sandra Toyer, Operational Manager at Wellbeing Scotland, said: “Having a Scotland wide service with remote workers made us well prepared to deal with this crisis quickly and efficiently. Our training materials have also adapted well to online, enabling us to continue to share our messages about wellbeing and self management. We have accessed further Wellbeing Fund and Big Lottery funding. This will enable us to offer many more hours of support. We have managed to recruit many new volunteers.”
Janine Rennie concluded: “The sector are fantastic when a rapid response is needed but one that meets the needs of the people we support. Community based organisations were operational immediately to meet practical needs but there has been a wide recognition in the sector that mental health will be an ongoing crisis. I remain impressed by the energy and commitment in the sector. The ALLIANCE has regularly brought us together as a sector and the relationships built have been vital to move the response forward.”