26th June 2020
The past few months have been challenging for everyone in Scotland, especially those who already experienced mental health problems. Following our previous statement on how SAMH has responded to the challenges of lockdown, this is a brief update on developments since April.
SAMH provides services including housing support, care at home, employability services, care homes and many other community services. In addition we work with partners to support children and young people and provide services in the field of physical activity and sport. Almost all of our services have remained operational throughout this period, but our delivery and development teams moved quickly to develop and introduce new models of working in line with Scottish Government guidance.
At present, 32 SAMH services are working to a restricted model of delivery, while 22 are either operating as normal, within appropriate guidelines on social distance and PPE, or delivering a blended approach of telephone, digital and face to face support. In the past week, our therapeutic horticulture services, which are based in gardens and largely involve outdoor work, have begun reopening to service users .
Some of our staff have continued to provide face to face support for our service users throughout lockdown, following all guidelines for care workers. They have provided an essential service for people who are highly vulnerable, and we are deeply grateful for their commitment. We are monitoring the number of our staff who are shielding or otherwise in a vulnerable group, to ensure we are taking good care of our teams.
We have been fortunate not to see any major outbreaks of coronavirus in our services or amongst our staff. We are following guidance from Health Protection Scotland on testing staff in our care homes, all of which are considered low risk for infection.
Throughout lockdown we have been conscious of its impact on the people we support, and have seen an increase in incidents involving self harm and thoughts of suicide. As well as providing direct support when our service users are struggling, we want to ensure we understand the wider impact on people with mental health problems, so we are working with the University of Glasgow on longitudinal population-level research. We have also commissioned our own, charitably-funded research to specifically track the experiences of people with mental health problems throughout this period.
Our web information hub on coronavirus and mental wellbeing has been well-used throughout this period, with almost 25,000 unique visits since launch. Our telephone and email-based Information Service has seen an increase in people with suicidal thoughts accessing the service, and in people presenting with depression, anxiety and stress. Our average call time has increased in the last few months, as people have needed a greater emphasis on emotional support.
Like all charities, we face financial challenges as a result of the current situation. We have taken responsible steps to safeguard our finances, such as making use of the UK Government’s furlough scheme for a small number of our staff. We will continue to review our fundraising plans and know that our incredible supporters will be there to help us continue supporting Scotland’s mental health.