Helpline launched to prepare for rise in mental health issues due to pandemic
PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 September 2020
A 24-hour mental health helpline is being rolled out to adults across the West of England to help them cope with the impact of Covid-19.
NHS bosses are forecasting a 30 per cent spike in demand for mental health support as people grieve for loved ones, lose their jobs or are exposed to abuse at home.
The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire clinical commissioning group was warned that without action, the system would have been unable to cope.
A report to its governing body meeting last week said: “We may see a 30 per cent increase in mental health need as a result of Covid-19.
“A key factor will be the economic impact – if it is similar to that of the post-2008 recession, we could expect a significant increase in mental health problems.
“If unmitigated, this ‘surge’ poses a significant risk to people experiencing crisis due to delays or reduced treatment, affecting lives and putting pressure on other areas of our system.”
The CCG agreed to a package of support in July and much of it is now in place.
Children and young people have been particularly affected, with reports of trouble sleeping and health anxiety more than doubling.
The report says the disruption to their education is ‘unparalleled’ and they have not been able to access support through their schools, while some children may have suffered greater exposure to abuse and neglect.
And it warns that existing health inequalities are at risk of widening. Suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and stress are more prevalent in children from black, minority ethnic and Asian backgrounds than their white counterparts.
In response, the CCG will boost funding to black-led mental health organisations, provide targeted support for BAME children, and increase support for refugees and asylum seekers.
For working-age adults, unemployment, dropping income and unmanageable debts are linked to poor mental wellbeing, substance-related disorders and suicidal behaviours.
The CCG has launched a new universal access 24/7 mental health and wellbeing helpline, cut its waiting list for talking therapies and it is set to commission more bereavement support.
A CCG spokesperson said: “We’re currently working on a range of measures to support people across our area, focusing in particular on improving access to mental health services among our most deprived communities.
“More than 40 partners locally across the healthcare and voluntary sector have been involved in shaping the plans, including those with lived experience of mental ill health. The business case was approved in July and much of the support is in place.
“These plans include enhanced psychological support for all NHS and care staff who need it, as well as a new 24/7 support helpline open to anyone aged 18 and over in our area who would benefit from immediate support for emotional or practical issues.
“People can access the helpline by calling 08000 126549 or logging on to www.vitahealthgroup.co.uk/247supportandconnect.”
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