Mental health help available to the Calderdale community
After what is surely one of the most challenging years in living memory, people across the UK are going into winter weary and exhausted – and with Christmas still to sort out.
While it might be the most wonderful time of the year for some however, the holiday season can be a time when mental health problems begin to surface or worsen.
And with national concerns that there could be a huge increase in the number of people needing help for mental health issues, Calderdale VitaMinds NHS Talking Therapies Service is reaching out to reassure people that help is available – whatever the problem.
The service has already seen a recent rise in the number of people contacting them, after a year which has been a perfect storm for mental health issues.
The Covid-19 pandemic has left people locked down, unable to socialise, often feeling trapped in difficult situations while their anxiety about the state of the world grows.
The experts at VitaMinds have also seen at first-hand the devastating losses suffered by the local community, including the loss of loved ones, unemployment, and many local traders being forced to furlough or lay-off hard-working staff, or even to close their business.
Money worries, health worries, constant uncertainty about the rules, - all of it has taken its toll on people.
“We wanted to let people know that we are here to help them with whatever they are going through, and while we haven’t been able to offer face-to-face appointments due to the current restrictions, we have a range of methods to support people via telephone, online or video appointments,” said Dr Mohammed Munawar, clinical lead at VitaMinds.
Different types of support are available, depending on the issues people are facing. People might struggle with low mood, find they have stopped doing their usual activities, be struggling with sleep, with motivation, or might just feel more anxious. There may have been an impact on family life and on relationships.
“As Calderdale residents continue to face restrictions under the new strengthened tiered system, we are mindful that many people have faced increased loneliness and isolation”, stated Dr Munawar. “It has been difficult to maintain contact with family and friends. Continually hearing about increased Covid cases, and the uncertainty around lockdowns and restrictions, can leave people feeling anxious and overwhelmed”.
Dr Munawar also emphasised that “many people’s lives have been put on hold, and it is difficult to make plans for the future”. For instance, celebrations such as weddings and religious events have been cancelled. Pleasurable activities such as playing sports, meeting a friend for a coffee or shopping, have had to stop. Planning holidays abroad continues to be challenging due to concerns about the pandemic and quarantine rules.
“Sometimes people might think they need to have severe psychological problems to access mental health services, but we’re here to help anyone,” says Dr Munawar. “If they’re noticing their mood is lower than usual or more variable, if they’re worrying a lot more about things, or if they want to learn how to cope with stress or to improve their day to day functioning, they should get in touch with us.
For instance, some people may have mild symptoms which affect their mood and anxiety levels. VitaMinds Health has a number of webinars covering low mood and anxiety, which people can access from the comfort of their own home. A practitioner will go through the symptoms they have and teach them techniques for coping that they can put into practice in everyday life.
Dr Munawar stated that some individuals prefer to access treatment online. Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy allows people to access support via their PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, with the flexibility to do this at times that suit them. A practitioner supports them to work through the material, and it has proved very effective.
In addition, one-to-one support with a practitioner can be accessed via telephone or video calls. VitaMinds provides a range of therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), counselling for depression, EMDR for post-traumatic stress disorder and couples counselling.
“Winter in general can be a difficult time for a lot of people. There is less daylight, outdoor activities are more difficult and other stresses begin to grow in the lead-up to Christmas. We know it can be a very happy time for people to get together with families, but for a lot of people it can be difficult or challenging, if they don’t have family nearby. For the elderly in particular it can be a lonely time. There are added financial stresses such as pressure to buy presents for people, and if people are going through financial difficulty already it can cause a lot of anxiety.
“So if they feel low, worried, or overwhelmed, our aim is to understand what the person is struggling with and hopefully equip them with some coping mechanisms so they can lead a fulfilling life.”
People can self-refer to VitaMinds by calling 03330153494, Monday to Thursday, 8am-8pm, and Friday from 8am to 5pm. The reception team will take some details from them and book them in for an assessment with a practitioner who will then discuss treatment.
Or people can go onto the website, click on NHS Services and Calderdale and fill in a brief form. The reception team will then contact them.
The service if free to access for Calderdale residents aged 18 and above, who are registered with a Calderdale GP. Interpreters can be arranged for people who require support via another language.
So if you feel you may need help, or just want to talk to someone about any concerns, visit the website at www.vitahealthgroup.co.uk.