As we all work to provide consistent communications and support to residents and colleagues alike, councils can help people adapt and maintain their health and wellbeing.
Public Health England has published guidance on supporting your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.
A starting point for communications is to acknowledge the challenges being faced, emphasise that this is being experienced collectively, and share tips and support. Below are some ways to achieve this:
Provide a support line for those struggling with loneliness
Many residents, and particularly those aged over 70 or with underlying health conditions who are facing long periods of physical distancing, will likely be struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation. A helpline for residents referring them to voluntary or service support can assist.
Wellbeing support information and guidance
There is an abundance of high-quality online material across different channels that can support residents. Councils should regularly publicise tips and tools on social media channels, the website and online and off-line advertisements, as well as pointing residents in the direction of guidance from mental health charities and other relevant organisations. Mutual aid groups and partner agencies should be viewed as key channels to disseminate this information.
Manchester City Council’s guidance shows the essential information local authorities need to cover.
Provide support on how to talk about loneliness, wellbeing and mental health with members of the public
Councils should be offering guidance to their own staff, mutual aid groups and other voluntary organisations on how to talk about loneliness, wellbeing and mental health with members of the public. This could come in the form of an online training video or written guidance. High-quality guidance is available from the Mental Health Foundation on how to support someone with a mental health problem; Heads Together on talking about mental health and Mind on how to support someone else who wants to seek help.
The LGA has produced guidance on wellbeing for frontline staff
Useful tips and tools
Public Health England guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus
- NHS Get Fit For Free
- NHS Gym Free Workouts
- Evening Standard At Home Workouts
- PE with Joe Wicks live streamed on The Body Coach YouTube channel every morning at 9am
- Maintaining social connections through video call or over the phone
- Using technology to stay social e.g. through the Netflix Party Google Chrome extension or apps such as Words with Friends
Manage the amount of news and social media being consumed
Meditation and Mindfulness
- Apps such as Calm and Headspace
- Anxiety UK free Breathing and Relaxation Guide
- Online NHS-approved mindfulness course
Information about helplines and services if someone becomes concerned about their mental health
- Call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email email@example.com
- Text the Shout Crisis Text line. Text Shout to 85258.
- Anxiety UK offers a helpline, online support groups and #Coronanxiety webinars to help manage anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic. Phone 03444 775774 (9.30am – 8pm weekdays; 10am – 8pm weekends) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is how some councils are supporting mental wellbeing in their region.
- Tandridge District Council wellbeing newsletter and webpage
Tandridge District Council has created a special wellbeing newsletter to signpost residents to a wide range of information and support including keeping fit and active, eating well, learning activities and mental health. A website page Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing has also been set up to make it easy to find the information all in one place. The webpage will be kept up to date as new resources are created.
- New Maldon District Council – Stay at Home, Grow Your Own
To support the wellbeing of Maldon District residents, Maldon District Council and Abberton Rural Training (ART) are working in partnership on a new community initiative encouraging residents to ‘Stay At Home, Grow Your Own’. The initiative is encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviours during the pandemic, such as healthy cooking, staying active at home and to be part of something in the community that supports vulnerable residents who are at risk of social isolation. Free starter kits were shared with key workers, residents in financial difficulty and residents with a health condition.
- Essex County Council
Essex County Council (ECC) has launched ‘Every Family Matters’, a campaign aimed at signposting parents and carers to advice, resources and support across three key areas – children’s mental health and wellbeing, social distancing and young people and online safety. A new, dedicated page on the ECC website has been created and information is also being shared across ECC social media platforms and in residents’ newsletters to support families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Southampton City Council – taking care of yourself at home
For some, the current social distancing measures have not only changed their daily lives but have also had an impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Southampton’s communications team wanted to create a useful but light-hearted piece to provide some top tips for self-care at this time. This video (made while staying in, of course) features an appearance from Southampton FC forward Danny Ings as its poster star, and includes among its recommendations: maintaining a routine, keeping hydrated, using creativity and staying connected with friends, family and colleagues.
- Surrey County Council launches mental health campaign
Surrey County Council has launched a mental health campaign, signposting residents who may be experiencing difficulties to support and advice. Through Healthy Surrey, the council’s health and wellbeing service, the council is directing residents to a range of free local support services in the county to help support residents who may be experiencing loneliness, stress or anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis.