Cumbrian charities tackle mental health issues triggered by COVID-19 pandemic

14th May 2020

Charities in Cumbria have received funding to help reduce the number of suicides and self-harm incidences in the county.

The impact of COVID-19 can lead to increased fear, frustration, and anxiety, causing stress and depression. Lots of people are struggling with having to stay at home, and with lockdown being extended for another three weeks, the effect on people’s mental health could be staggering.

The North East and North Cumbria Mental Health Integrated Care Systems (ICS) provided additional funding to the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund, managed by Cumbria Community Foundation, to enhance the support available to people struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.

Five organisations have received a share of more than £40,000 to support the suicide and self-harm prevention agenda. The money will help all ages, including vulnerable young people with chaotic lifestyles, parents who are juggling home working and home schooling, employees who have been furloughed or made redundant, and people with learning disabilities who are self-isolating.

Katherine McGleenan, suicide prevention lead across north east and north Cumbria, said: “We want to do everything possible to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing during this incredibly difficult and stressful time. Maintaining good mental health and wellbeing are key to supporting people to stay safe and well through times of crisis like this. We are therefore delighted to be able to work with Cumbria Community Foundation to support projects that will help provide support for people who are perhaps feeling at the moment there is less support available. This is especially important for people in our communities who are more vulnerable and already are struggling.”

Among the recipients is Carlisle & Eden Mind. The charity received £10,000 to extend the MindLine service. Tara Quinn, Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this funding, which will help continue our daytime MindLine service. We help over 2,000 people per year through MindLine and now, more than ever, we will aim to reach people who need a listening ear, those more at risk and those at risk of suicide. We are passionate about our services at Carlisle Eden Mind and this fundind will help us to continue delivery of an established and much needed helpline, throughout Cumbria.”

Evidence suggests that people with learning difficulties are at a higher risk of self-harm and self-injury. Carlisle Mencap has received reports of clients self-harming due to lockdown restrictions, and the charity received £6,556 to offer early-intervention support to help them and their families.

Sheila Gregory, Chief Executive, said: “We are very pleased to receive this funding which will really help to support people with learning disabilities and/or autism at this difficult time. Our staff are working hard to support our members through the crisis, but this can be a very challenging when we are limited in the amount of physical contact we have with people. The funds will enable us to give members and their families one to one support virtually or over the phone to alleviate their anxiety.”

With 24-hour rolling news and social media, it is impossible to get away from COVID-19. For children, it is especially hard as they are unable to meet with school friends and have less of a virtual network outside their families. If they are already in an abusive family, this can be exacerbated by the pandemic.

PAC, in Carlisle, provides counselling and therapy to youngsters who have acute needs brought on by childhood trauma, a family break up, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or neglect. The charity received £10,000 to employ a therapist for an additional day a week over 12 months.

Other groups to receive support include People First Independent Advocacy who received £10,000 to provide a telephone and video counselling service, and £5,000 was awarded to Every Life Matters to get suicide prevention materials online and made widely available.

Cumbria has some of the highest rates of suicide, with one person per week taking their own life. The money awarded coincides with mental health awareness week, which runs between 18th and 24th May and encourages people to talk.

Annalee Holliday, Grants & Donor Services Officer at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “The impact of COVID-19 is affecting not just people’s incomes but also their health. As well as practical support, it’s important that people have sufficient emotional support and reach out to their networks. We want to make sure that everyone has access to mental health support and guidance and to let people know that there are many charitable organisations across Cumbria ready to offer a listening ear, while reducing pressure on the NHS.”