We all hear about the devastating impact of the pandemic and as a local mental health charity, Stockport Mind have seen this first-hand. Most people you speak to have very much had the ‘Coronacoaster’ experience – some days good, some days hard to get through – but can we remember the positives that have come from this pandemic and the impacts they have had within this turbulent experience?
This blog series is aimed primarily at office workers, and though we continue to reflect that everyone’s journey through this pandemic is unique, we wanted to acknowledge that other non-office-based industries have often had less choice and flexibility over where and how they work.
In these blogs, Stockport Mind employees reflect on their journey during the past 18 months, about the additional challenges this pandemic has brought to their support of vulnerable service users. But they also discuss and reflect on their work continuing – whilst able to work from home – and that they have felt fortunate in that new transition; especially being able to continue to support those who have needed it most.
Coronacoaster Blog 4 of 5 – Supporting people through the pandemic (Isolation and Social Engagement Service)
Our Isolation and Social Engagement Worker talks about their experience in supporting members of the community through this pandemic.
Having supported a number of people needing support during the ongoing pandemic with multiple, difficult lockdowns, it is clear that the impact of this has been significant on already vulnerable individuals, and the effects will be felt for some time. There have been a wide range of obstacles already faced by service users, from chronic illness, depression and disability to trauma, bereavement and substance abuse to name just a few. I have seen a wide spectrum of the human condition, and watched issues become further compounded by the enforced isolation. It has been an unfortunate paradox that the very thing put in place to protect people may have harmed them profoundly in other ways. Feeling a loss of confidence or control, returning to unhealthy coping mechanisms and feeling trapped have all been commonly reported amongst individuals I have worked with.
Working in a community-based role during this time has highlighted the social impact on service users and services themselves. Along with working through the emotional aspects of living in an unprecedented situation on a personal level, it has been hard as a professional to watch individuals lose access to their lifelines (this could be a weekly local group, visits from family members or just a trip into town for a coffee) and not necessarily being able to do my job and immediately remedy this by linking them to other opportunities. Many services have been forced to shut down, severely restrict their offer due to government guidance or simply lost staff. Huge waiting lists and loss of resource/money has brought home to me the need in the community for more services for those struggling with mental health, or at least robust investment in those services that already exist. Focus on staff wellbeing is also more relevant than ever, as we all have the potential to become vulnerable if care is not taken to nurture mental and physical health (on an organisational and personal level).
That being said, I have witnessed amazing resilience in people and the power of a simple conversation and supportive, compassionate ear when nothing else can be offered. A lot can be achieved with gentle encouragement and support – the hard truth is that this is something not everyone has access to from family/friends/neighbours, so local service support is vital to them. Many have adapted to the pandemic by engaging in ways they never thought they would, such as reconnecting with estranged family members or getting involved with online groups. The latter has triggered a wider conversation around ‘digital inclusion’ which can only be a positive thing, and looks to ensure no one is left behind in a time when we are relying more and more on technology to bring us together.
In my work I have found that change and uncertainty can be the most profoundly difficult things to navigate as a human, particularly for one who has been suffering emotionally or physically for a long time. Therefore, the last 15 months or so have been incredibly challenging for everyone. Helping individuals to navigate and overcome obstacles in a productive way and helping them to feel less alone has been truly rewarding. Working for Stockport Mind during the pandemic has reinforced for me the importance of face-to-face connection, the vital importance of mental health advocacy, for change at all levels in our society (including at a higher level), and removal of stigma that can lead to loneliness and isolation – issues that were very much relevant before the pandemic.
If you work for a Stockport or Cheshire East business that may need some support around Workplace Wellbeing in these ever-changing times, please feel free to encourage your HR department to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read previous blogs in this series: