Worthing mental health first aider backs NHS Every Mind Matters campaign

A Worthing procurement manager is backing NHS Every Mind Matters in a bid to help people cope during lockdown.

The major campaign was launched by Public Health England in October 2019 to promote good mental health and it has become particularly significant during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emma Law, a mental health first aider, is helping by giving advice on coping with stress, after a new survey found two-thirds of adults in the UK had struggled during lockdown.

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She has overcome several periods of stress and depression in her life, including the death of her father-in law, swiftly followed by the loss of her beloved dog, at the start of the pandemic.

Emma Law from Worthing is supporting the NHS Every Mind Matters campaign, launched by Public Health England

Her bereavements came at a time when her job was taking on new significance, and she soon felt the pressures piling up.

Emma said: “I suddenly found myself working very long hours at home, changing what had been quite static policies and procedures, and securing the supply of PPE for local authorities. My work-life balance became very unbalanced. The pressure was immense.

“When my husband was furloughed, and then made redundant, my mental health suffered. My gym closed, I ate poorly – in my case, a lot of bread and cheese and takeaways. I stopped taking care of myself. Emotionally, I did feel quite vulnerable.”

Having experienced stress and depression before, Emma had the tools and tactics to take positive action.

She said: “I asked myself ‘What can I do with this? What can I do in the current situation?’. The two main things for me were diet and exercise.

“I started to address my sugar intake and really dialled up my consumption of fruit and veg – even up to ten portions a day. I flipped my once in-person classes to live Zoom classes, which was a game changer as I still saw people, albeit online – I still had that sense of community. In fact, lockdown made me realise how much I value my local community and I’ve made more effort to support local businesses and online teachers.”

Taking action early put Emma in a good place over the summer, as restrictions initially began to lift. Then, when autumn came and national restrictions were imposed again, she took a few additional steps to maintain her spirits.

Emma, who works for Orbis, a shared services partnership, explained: “I met my manager to discuss my hours and I bought a decent chair and a light box for my desk. I continue to walk and do yoga and, importantly, I make sure I’m hydrated enough. I’ve dropped over a stone since the beginning of the year – physically and mentally, I feel great.”

The PHE survey showed 48 per cent of adults were more worried during the current lockdown than last March, and nearly two thirds of those said the outbreak had already had a negative impact on their mental health.

Many said they had been experiencing more anxiety, stress, sleep problems and low mood over the course of the pandemic.

Missing friends and family, uncertainty about the future and worries about safety and health were among the most common reasons the lockdown had negatively impacted on people’s mental health.

On the plus side, three-quarters of the nation are planning to take, or have already taken, steps to help look after their mental wellbeing.

The campaign encourages people to get a free NHS-approved Mind Plan from the Every Mind Matters website for themselves and their families.

Angela Baker, deputy director for health and wellbeing at PHE South East, said: “While the experience of the pandemic has been different for everyone, there’s no doubt it has caused unprecedented challenges, and, not surprisingly, many of us are now experiencing poorer mental wellbeing.

“Feeling stress, anxiety and worry are very natural feelings in the face of the Covid outbreak, and looking after our mental wellbeing has never been more important.

“The good news is that our Every Mind Matters Covid resources have lots of excellent practical tips and advice, and I’d encourage you to get a free NHS Mind Plan, which will give you simple steps to help you navigate these challenging times.”

Visit www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters for advice on coronavirus and wellbeing, coping with loneliness, dealing with change, coping with money worries and job uncertainty, and mental wellbeing while staying at home.