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LOCAL charity Wiltshire Mind has experienced a ‘large increase’ in enquiries for its counselling services as lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted.
And the charity is anticipating that the need for support will increase as the recession takes hold and more people face financial uncertainty.
The increase in demand for the charity’s services comes at a time when it has been reported that twice as many adults in Britain are experiencing symptoms of depression now, compared with this time last year. Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that one in five people appeared to have depressive symptoms compared with one in ten before the pandemic.
Counselling lead at Wiltshire Mind, Philippa Collins, told Melksham News, “We are saddened to read the recent statistics that rates of depression have doubled during the pandemic.
“We initially noticed a down-turn in counselling enquiries during the first few months of the lockdown, however, we experienced an increase in enquiries for immediate telephone support through our wellbeing check service. The reduction in counselling enquiries was not unexpected as we believe many people were still coming to terms with the situation. Much like any crisis or trauma, it can take time to process the shock of what is happening and to have the capacity to process this.
“Since July, we have experienced a large increase in counselling enquiries by comparison. We recognise that this links to the gradual lifting of lockdown. We are anticipating there to be an increased need for our services going forward as government financial support measures are wound down, and the recession takes hold.
“For anyone experiencing depression, we recommend talking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, spending time out in nature, taking regular gentle exercise, having structure to your day, for example, planning at least one activity per day. We would always suggest talking to your GP if you are struggling.
“The pandemic has been a challenging time as all of our services are usually provided face-to-face and it took time to plan how to continue to support our service users in a safe way.
“Our one-to-one counselling service provides support to people who are suffering with stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or emotional distress. We initially paused this service due to the restrictions.
“We began offering telephone counselling for existing clients from April, and from June we have offered counselling using an online platform for both existing and new clients, which has proved popular.
“We also offer a Young People’s Service which provides support to people aged between 11 and 18 who are experiencing mental health difficulties. This service operated over the telephone for existing clients from April and counselling for new clients resumed via an online platform in August.
“We are now completing risk assessments to plan for resuming face-to-face counselling. We are aiming for October, but of course this depends on any changes to government guidelines.
“We intend to have a phased return, meaning that we will offer both face-to-face and online counselling, depending on the individual client need. Our weekly peer support groups are offered across seven locations in the county, and provide a safe, friendly place for anyone experiencing mental health issues. We have been unable to continue these groups during the pandemic but have offered a new weekly wellbeing phone call to these service users. This has been well-received, particularly for those service users who are isolated or needed to shield. Again, we are risk assessing how we can resume our face-to-face groups in a safe way, which includes being guided by the individual venue and their own risk assessment.
“Our charity shop in Church Street, Melksham, re-opened in July. This not only provides much-needed funds for our service, but also offers volunteering opportunities to members of our community, enabling them to gain experience and also supports their well-being. We are currently accepting donations to the shop, however there are some limitations, so we ask that these are pre-arranged by calling 01225 704985.
“We usually offer a mental health awareness training service to local businesses, which enables them to recognise early signs of mental health issues in their team and take early action to support the employee. We are also able to arrange accredited mental health First Aid training. This is another source of funding for us which has been paused during the pandemic, however we are happy to take enquiries from local businesses to discuss future needs.
“Wiltshire Mind is a self-funding charity and, as with many charities, we have experienced a vast reduction in funding during the pandemic. We welcome any donations from the community and local businesses. People can donate online via www. justgiving.com/wiltshire-mind or contact us in the office for more details.
“For any enquiries about our services or to discuss fundraising possibilities, please contact our office on 01225 706532 between 9am-1pm, Monday to Friday.”