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Coronavirus is affecting us all - but we don't have to go through this on our own, says health secretary


By Alan Hendry

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Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman outlines the support available to those who will be dealing with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, anger or sadness during the Covid-19 crisis

Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman. Picture: Scottish Government
Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman. Picture: Scottish Government

Covid-19 is affecting all our lives – whether it be our physical and mental health, or our general wellbeing.

People across Scotland are facing challenges such as financial loss, loneliness brought on by physical distancing, bereavement and, of course, frustration at the necessary restrictions which are in place to reduce the spread. Others are facing increased pressure to juggle work commitments with childcare, while dealing with feelings of isolation and anxiety. Many of us will have experienced low moods over the past few weeks. We might feel anxious or worried about what’s happening. Some of us might even be affected by mental health problems for the first time.

During such unprecedented times, it is completely understandable to not feel quite yourself. We know that everyone’s mental health will be affected by Covid-19 in different ways. That’s why we are working to ensure that everyone can access the right support, at the right time, and in the right setting. That could range from general advice about emotional wellbeing to digital or telephone support or to specialist mental health services.

We want to promote good mental health and wellbeing for everyone. The Clear Your Head campaign is there to support you to look after your own mental health and wellbeing during the outbreak and beyond. The website contains advice and tips for staying mentally healthy, and also contains links to where you can ask for help and support, including the NHS Inform site and helplines operated by NHS 24, Breathing Space, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and Samaritans. For children and young people, the Young Scot website is a brilliant resource.

This type of signposting to help, advice and support is crucial. We have invested £3.8 million to increase the capacity of NHS 24’s telephone helplines and extend access to digital services, including £1.2 million for Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT). This will ensure that people who were already receiving mental health services can continue to get the help they need, despite the current restrictions. Nhsinform.scot is the main place to find information and support.

We have also provided more than £700,000 to the counselling service The Spark, to establish a Relationship Helpline where people can voice their concerns about relationships in a safe, confidential space. We know the current restrictions can be putting a strain on relationships for all sorts of reasons. If you need a friendly listening ear, or more in-depth support, then the Relationship Helpline can be reached on 0808 802 2088 and is open 9am to 9pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 4pm on Fridays.

Women and children experiencing domestic abuse in the home may feel especially isolated and vulnerable, which is why we have provided grants to Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland to ensure that access to these key support services is maintained, and victims still have access to methods of reporting crimes during the crisis. Scotland’s 24-hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available on 0800 027 1234.

If things simply become too much for someone, we want them to know that we provide a rapid and easily accessible response. The Distress Brief Intervention programme, which is available for anyone aged over 16, sees specially trained staff getting involved early with people in distress, and working with them to come up with a “distress plan”. This will help people manage specific challenges in their lives and prevent further emotional health problems. More than £1 million has been invested to roll this programme out across the country, meaning anyone who goes to frontline services in distress during this difficult time can get the help they need.

We also need to maintain safe and effective treatment for more serious conditions. We are working with the NHS to ensure that mental health services remain available during this time. There may be adjustments to how those services are delivered to reflect the restrictions – but, if you need more specialist help for your mental health, you will be able to get it.

We know that this crisis will see many people dealing with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, anger or sadness. We are determined to provide the help and support Scotland needs to come through this and reassure anyone who needs advice that help is out there. Start by visiting clearyourhead.scot

None of us needs to go through this on our own.

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