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Mental health workers issue plea to anxiety sufferers as referrals plummet

PUBLISHED: 12:27 02 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:52 02 May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is causing anxiety for many people. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/fizkes

The coronavirus pandemic is causing anxiety for many people. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/fizkes

Getty Images/iStockphoto/fizkes

Mental health therapists are urging anxiety suffers to seek support as referrals to the NHS Wellbeing Serivce drop by 50pc.

NSFT wants people to get in touch if they're struggling with their mental health during lockdown. Photo: ArchantNSFT wants people to get in touch if they're struggling with their mental health during lockdown. Photo: Archant

But despite seeing the big reduction in referrals since lockdown began, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has stressed that it is very much “open for business”.

Hayley Matthews, from the NSFT, said that the “protect the NHS” maxim, while important to reiterate, was confusing people into thinking that mental health services were inaccessible during lockdown.

She said: “People are clearly reluctant to come forward about things not linked to Covid-19.

“But actually, we are still offering everything we were previously. The only difference is that it’s online.”

We have to look after our mental health while in isolation  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoWe have to look after our mental health while in isolation Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ms Matthews said that people can refer themselves through a simple online form or by phoning the wellbeing service.

Staff will then make contact within three days to offer services and support networks that could help alleviate anxiety and low mood.

She said: “We can offer help by phone, text, webinars and virtual socials.

“We’re also running workshops about employment support and managing relationships during this time - because many people are still at work, or are being locked in with people they’d usually only see a few hours a day.”

Contrary to common understanding, Ms Matthews also stressed that referrals do not need to be “signed off” by a medical professional.

“Actually”, she said, “it would be ideal if people referred themselves before it even got to the point of having to see a GP. The key thing to stress is that it’s not useful to wait until it gets ‘bad enough’. There is no such thing.

According to health bosses, people are trapped in the mindset of ‘what I’m feeling isn’t as bad as what somebody else is going through’.

But Ms Matthews said that comparing ourselves was unhelpful, as everyone at one point in their life will be overwhelmed with low-mood, anxiety or stress.

Her message was unequivocal: you would not ignore a low-grade headache for months until it becomes a brain tumour, and the same attitude should be taken with regards to mental health.

She said: “Our demand is so low at the minute that we’re able to book people in for sessions on the same day or the day after.”

If you think you would benefit from contacting the Wellbeing Service, fill in this self-referral form or call 0300 123 1503.


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