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Supporting the region’s mental health during COVID-19


May 24, 2020

Over 1.3 million households across the North East and North Cumbria will receive a booklet developed by mental health specialists offering advice to help those struggling to cope with the current health crisis.

During these difficult and stressful times, it is crucial that people receive the help they need to stay safe and to manage their mental health and wellbeing. By working in collaboration with regional partners, the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network has developed a booklet, endorsed by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, to provide information and support for people who may be struggling to cope with changing circumstances and social isolation.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, from 18th-24th May, the North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network is promoting a mental health and wellbeing campaign and providing information to help prevent anyone feeling they are alone and struggling to cope. By increasing awareness and reducing the stigma associated with self-harm and suicide, and promoting good mental health and wellbeing for everyone, they aim to do everything possible to stop people losing friends and family to suicide.

With this in mind, the Suicide Prevention Network recently launched a new website (www.stopsuicidenenc.org) to provide help and advice about mental wellbeing, support for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, and guidance for those sadly bereaved by suicide. The website provides access to a wealth of professional resources to help people working in services and the wider community.

It is vital that key advice and information is easily accessible to the most vulnerable members of our communities, and those who may not have access to online information. The Suicide Prevention Network has therefore commissioned Every Life Matters Cumbria, a suicide prevention charity, to produce a detailed booklet containing practical information which will be helpful for everyone, and particularly for people who are finding the current crisis difficult and feel isolated.

The Every Life Matters booklet contains self-help information and advice for managing mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as advice on how to support others. The booklet, which also includes signposting for advice or urgent support, is currently being distributed to homes across the region, supported by a social media campaign based on this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of “kindness”.

Katherine McGleenan, North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Lead, explained: “I have worked as a mental health nurse for over 30 years and have seen the devastating impact poor mental health can have on people’s lives. I have also seen how, with the right support, people can become mentally well again, even in difficult circumstances. We want people to know there is support available and to know how to access help if needed, and that they don’t need to cope alone.”

John Lawlor, Chief Executive, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, added: “It is essential we make easily accessible information available to people who may be finding social isolation difficult. I am confident the Every Life Matters booklet will be a valuable tool for many people needing support to stay mentally safe and well, during the current circumstances and beyond. It will enable and encourage individuals, families, friends, and local communities to take care of themselves, and look out for each other.”

Chris Wood, of the Every Life Matters charity which produced the booklet, said: “COVID-19 presents some big challenges to people’s mental health and wellbeing. Many of our coping mechanisms, and activities that underpin our wellbeing, are no longer available and we need to be more thoughtful and creative about how we manage our stress, anxieties and mental health generally. We have written this booklet to give people practical information and guidance on what we can all do to cope emotionally during the crisis.”

Niall, a 22-year-old man who lives in the region and has been furloughed from his job due to the pandemic, commented: “I really like it. It’s very clear and straightforward and has a lot of useful information. If you take a look it is really accessible and has so many great resources. It has advice on loads of different subjects and has a very friendly feel to it.”

A local retired GP, who offered their feedback on how the booklet could help vulnerable people in their community, added: “You can access information online, but often a physical copy just sitting there can be dipped into and may be more easily accessible than a link someone might have sent in amongst other messages. Someone might read the booklet while having a coffee and know there is help out there and someone cares about them by sending the booklet.”

The North East and North Cumbria has some of the highest rates of suicide. In 2018, the Office for National Statistics reported that the region had the highest suicide rate for men, and the fifth highest rate for females, across the UK.

The North East and North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network is a regional multi-agency collaborative which aims to help reduce the incidence of suicide and self-harm, by offering support, advice and information to keep people mentally safe and well. The Network plans have been informed by people who have lost loved ones to suicide, and works with the NHS, local authorities and other frontline services to link with local charities, businesses and community groups to co-ordinate efforts and provide ongoing support and guidance to people.

The Network aims to:

  • Promote wellbeing and resilience.
  • Reduce the number of suicides, including in high-risk groups, across the North East and North Cumbria.
  • Reduce the incidence of self-harm and repeated self-harm.
  • Reduce the impact of self-harm and suicide.
  • Reduce the stigma of self-harm and suicide.