Spotlight on Carers

“An unpaid carer is anyone, including children and adults, who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support.”

Nationally, it is thought that 4.5 million additional people have taken on caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

The results of a recent survey by Healthwatch Hampshire highlighted the challenges for unpaid carers as follows:

  • Unable to get a break
  • Problems getting essentials like food and medication
  • The closure of day services and schools
  • An increase in the hours devoted to caring
  • Difficulty explaining the pandemic to vulnerable people
  • A lack of recognition and respect
  • Problems accessing health and social care services
  • Unsure of the help and support available for carers

As well as financial pressures and problems with employment, carers found their family relationships under great strain and many struggled with their mental health – feeling isolated, frustrated, sad, worried, bored, trapped and fearful about the future.

Nearly 200 carers took part in the survey and over 70% said that their hours spent caring had increased during the pandemic. 75% said their mental health had been affected.

“[My daughter] has been diagnosed with autism which is why she couldn’t cope with so much change. Moving her into my house was the only option. I was working from home and it meant I could keep her calm, shop and cook for her and she didn’t need to deal with the strange world outside. It was tiring physically but very draining mentally.”

“There was no emergency support that I could access so I moved my mum into my dining room for approximately 6 weeks and became her full-time carer. Whilst I did this willingly, I often felt over-whelmed and “on my own”.”

Based on what helped carers to get through these really difficult times, Healthwatch Hampshire suggested three themes to campaign for more support in the future:

Protect – elements which helped carers during the pandemic, which they want to protect and keep going into the future
Grow – elements which need to increase or improve in the future to offer more support and help to carers if they are to remain useful
Create – things which don’t exist currently but would be really helpful to carers in the future

Click here for more information and resource links, and to download the full report from Healthwatch Hampshire

Reasons to be Cheerful

Some of you may recall the late great Ian Drury. “Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3” was released by Stiff Records in 1979 and reached number 3 in the UK singles chart. The link takes you to an inspiring live performance with the Blockheads in 2010.

As 2020 comes to an end, there are indeed reasons to be cheerful, quite apart from the vaccines on the way. Its been a really tough year and next year will be even tougher for many people, but we’ve also seen waves of unprecedented compassion and courage which should be celebrated and valued in the future. Local communities have rallied to help people in need, whether through isolation, poor health, financial difficulties or bereavement. The pandemic has highlighted those essential services we depend on for a semblance of normality, and the courage of those who keep them going often at risk to themselves and their families. Not only hospital and health care staff, but also teachers and social care workers, supermarket workers, delivery people, factory and farm workers, hospitality and public transport workers.

Coping with a Covid Christmas

With the last minute restrictions on Christmas celebrations, perhaps this is a fitting end to a most extraordinary year. And 2021 promises to be another year of uncertainty and challenge. So I thought I’d share this very shortened version of an ancient Chinese parable to reflect on: 

Books Alive! week

Thanks to some funding from the Portsmouth Lottery, we’re celebrating stories of diversity from our inspirational Books Alive! volunteers.

So why not join us for our Books Alive! week? We’ll be sharing an interview with one of our volunteers at 4pm each day, starting on Monday 14 December. These will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and on our YouTube channel

Stories of Asylum during WW1

We’re hosting a second online launch event on Saturday 5 December at 10.30am. This is entitled ‘100 years of Mental Health Care in Hampshire’.
Carolyn Barber will talk about the outcomes of our 2017 project and exhibition. Carolyn will be joined by Maggie Sawkins, reading poems created from shared memories,  and Pip Firth, reading from her grandfather’s personal accounts of his experiences in World War 1.

History, health and hope

At the 11th hour of the 11th  day of the 11th month, the armistice was signed which formally ended hostilities of the First World War in 1918.  Remembrance Day is an opportunity to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts. Of course, the casualties that are often forgotten are those who experienced serious mental ill-health as a result of their military service, and also ordinary people caught up in traumatic events through these conflicts.

Mental Health For All

Saturday 10 October, was World Mental Health Day!

The theme this year is ‘Mental Health For All’, and it couldn’t be more relevant at a time when coronavirus has highlighted how much our mental health means to all of us.

I’ve done countless group workshops where I ask what words people associate with mental health. Invariably the answers are words like depression, madness, stress, mental illness, psychiatric hospitals. And then when I ask about the term ‘good mental health’, words like happiness, wellbeing, fulfilment, achieving things, active, motivated … come up.

Never Give Up Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come”
Anne Lamott

We’ve now reached another turning point in the Covid 19 pandemic with the re-introduction of further restrictions on close contact with others. So it seems timely to re-visit the idea of psychological resilience, and in particular the principle of hope.

Help Prevent Suicide!

At the weekend the University of Sheffield shared this series of 13 short films as part of their Festival of the Mind.

Based on the book Our Encounters with Suicide (ed. Fran Biley, Alex Grant, Judith Haire, Brendan Stone), Kathryn and Penny Capper’s films explore the impact of suicide in the wider community. Giving voice to diverse perspectives and experiences, the Suicide Monologues aims to challenge taboos and generate discussion around a complex subject that’s generally not talked about.

Time to Experiment with Change?

Among the many news and research updates I follow to try and keep myself up to date, is a national research programme seeking to understand the psychological and social impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. The research study is being carried out by University College London to explore the effects of the virus and social distancing measures on adults in the UK. Over 70,000 participants fill in a weekly survey to share their views and experiences.