This week is Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time and one in four people will experience some form of mental distress during their lifetime. This can include depression, anxiety, panic disorders and eating disorders, as well as conditions such as bipolar and schizophrenia.

So, for one week each May, an awareness campaign takes place to look at different themes that will encourage us to talk about mental health.

The theme for this Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness and the ways we can #Shareyourkindness for friends, family, work colleagues and our community.

Opportunities to be kind are all around us – and the smallest acts of kindness are often what make the biggest difference. Here are some examples of acts of kindness.

At Oxfordshire County Council we witness many acts of kindness from our staff, volunteers and partnership organisations, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. So, here are some examples of why #kindnessmatters for Mental Health Awareness Week and we encourage you to share examples too. 

Baby joy!

In this heart-warming story, staff in our Family Time Supervised Contact Team helped a father with a learning disability to physically meet his new born baby for the first time. Although it was outside of their usual remit, when the team found out that Dad had only been able to see his baby virtually due to social distancing restrictions, they stepped forward and coordinated a safe meeting, bringing much joy to everyone.

So much more than a day centre

In our ‘caring in a crisis’ series of news features we have been telling the stories of our adult social care teams, including Redlands Banbury Community Support Services who launched a new YouTube channel so day centre guests can enjoy singing, get involved with quizzes and receive companionship.

Craft packs bring joy

A member of staff, who had to self-isolate is missing one-to-one time with children, so she has created 100 craft packs to bring some joy to children. Each pack has a personalised set of instructions to ensure the child and their carer can make the item to encourage creativity.

 #Clapforcarers

We are supporting our local health care colleagues such as Oxford University Hospitals and Oxford Health to #clapforNHS and for carers every Thursday at 8pm. The gifts of gratitude and kindness cards are creatively colourful: see here.

Carer ID gives confidence

Are you trying to do a kind deed to obtain medication or groceries for a loved one? A Carer ID is available for paid and independent Carers who are providing care and support to young people and adults. It is a simple letter of authority which can be presented whilst out and about, should the Carer be challenged in places such as supermarkets.

Contact us at: CarerID@oxfordshire.gov.uk for further information.

#ThankATeacher Day

To coincide with national #ThankATeacher Day on Wednesday 20 May, we’ve been inviting people to share messages of appreciation for teaching and support staff across the county. We want to pay tribute to those who are working tirelessly to provide lessons and resources remotely, while continuing to run classrooms for pupils of key workers. 

Sweet treats

At the start of the lockdown, carers came to county hall reception pick up PPE so they can support residents. Jennifer is a Team Leader from our Social and Community Services team and she created gift bags of sweets as a thoughtful surprise and act of kindness for our team of carers.

Staying connected with music

As we adapt to new and different ways to support people to stay connected while isolating, virtual tours of museums or gardens has been created as a resource. Kerrie Anne from our Oxford Community services voluntarily organises music workshops via Facebook live which are widely enjoyed by all who participate. 

Helping vulnerable and concerned residents

Our colleague from the customer service team called a shielded resident who was identified as needing support. The family had four young children, were short of supplies, were very stressed and struggling to cope. We asked how they were coping and what they needed. Within 24 hours the resident called us back to say they had received a parcel with food, sanitary items and everything else they needed and more because they were extremely grateful for this act of kindness.

Transport help

Our fleet service is continuing to transport special needs students from home to school, clients to residential care homes as well as operating the Oxfordshire Comet minibus service, which takes residents for essential shopping trips or to GP appointments. This act of kindness makes a difference to know that transport is available for people, when they really need it.

For help and information 

STORY TWO: Mental Health Awareness: Be kind to yourself and to others

Online version

Looking after our mental health has never been more important than right now, so if you are struggling reach out. Help is a call away.

Coronavirus has transformed the way we live and work and the crucial social interactions and routines that keep everyone – from children to older people – mentally resilient have been displaced by ‘lockdown’ and social distancing.

The pandemic is affecting mental health in general – causing disruption, uncertainty and anxiety and creating rising levels anxiety, worry and stress.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (May 18-24) gets under way today with this year’s theme being about kindness and looking out for each other.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust– the NHS organisation that provides community and in-patient mental health care for all age groups in Oxfordshire – is urging people to reach out and get help.

The Trust has launched a 24/7 mental health helpline to provide people with mental health advice during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The number for adults is 01865 904997
  • For children and young people, the number is 01865 904998

The helpline makes it quicker and easier for people of all ages in Oxfordshire to get the right advice they need for their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Our trained mental health advisers will tell you where to tell you where to get the right help for you for a range of conditions and symptoms including anxiety, low mood, stress, worry, difficulty with relationships, crying often, feeling helpless, confusion, hallucinations or hearing voices.

Rob Bale, clinical director for mental health in Oxfordshire, said: “One in four people experience some form of mental health problem in the UK every year. It is completely normal to feel sad, angry or worried from time to time. But when those feelings won’t go away and they start to really affect day-to-day life, that is when there can be a problem.

“We ignore the emotional messages that tell us something is wrong. We tell ourselves it’s ‘just the way I am’. Or we bottle things up, hoping those around us won’t notice or kid ourselves that things will magically get better.

“If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out and make that call to us. Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is kindness. So be kind to yourself and to others. Share our helpline numbers with friends, family and neighbours. Helping others is good for our own mental health and wellbeing.”

Oxford Health has created a range of support for people during this difficult time

Leaflets cover: Worry and uncertainty; Recovering from trauma; bereavement; depression; obsessional problems and OCD. Find them here.

Children and young people: New self-help resources for parents, carers and young people and consist of an explanatory video, accompanying worksheets and an information booklet that can be downloaded. They will help you understand some of the common mental health problems young people experience and what you can do to help. Find them here

For parents: Helping my child is a section on Oxford Health’s child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) pages that offers practical tips suggested by parents and carers. Read them here

Support available in Oxfordshire

The Mental Health Helplines (adults 01865 904997, children 01865 904998) adds to the range of local mental health services people can access directly.

When someone is seriously ill or injured, or in an acute confused state, call 999.

For other mental health support people can contact:

  • Oxfordshire Mind Information Line – 01865 247788 open 9.30am to 4.30pm Mon – Friday
  • NHS 111 – dial 111 – open 24 hours
  • Samaritans – Freephone 116 123 – open 24 hours
  • The Oxfordshire Mind Guide