Boost for mental health charity as client numbers continue to grow due to pandemic

A mental health charity has been boosted with a donation of hundreds of pounds as staff continue to deal with a growing number of people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Bennet and Dave Prince from 90's Revival and Connor Bishop from Endorph Fitness alongside Sam Chaloner, Sara Emsley, Heather Ireland and Isabel Smith from Shropshire MHS
Paul Bennet and Dave Prince from 90's Revival and Connor Bishop from Endorph Fitness alongside Sam Chaloner, Sara Emsley, Heather Ireland and Isabel Smith from Shropshire MHS

Shropshire Mental Health Support (MHS), formerly known as Shropshire Mind, received £442 from 90s Revival discos, which has been supported by Endorph Fitness to livestream lockdown events in aid of charity.

Support workers say it will help them manage the 50 calls a day they receive from vulnerable people, a number which is "growing on a weekly basis".

Experts have raised concerns over the long-lasting psychological effects the last 12 months of restrictions may have had and Shropshire MHS has recruited additional staff and volunteers to meet these demands – including an extra 148 hours a week of paid work.

A survey carried out by the Shropshire Star this year revealed six out of 10 people admitted the events of last year had impacted on their mental health.

Sara Emsley, assistant manager of Shropshire MHS, said her team in Shrewsbury had made more than 11,500 support calls in the past year and answered nearly 6,000, often stepping in where other services had closed.

Isabel Smith and Sara Emsley of Shropshire MHS

"The year has been extremely tough for everyone and we have taken on a huge amount of people to support as lots of the usual support networks have dried up," Sara said.

"Lots of counsellors stopped working and the mental health teams around Shropshire stopped seeing people face to face.

"This directly affected us and we changed the way we worked by offering up phone support to everyone that needed us."

A lifeline for more than 1,000 people throughout the pandemic has been the service's Calmer Cafe, which enabled people to meet in a relaxed environment before lockdown, and has since been used for those needing one-to-one support.

Other initiatives include weekly Zoom support sessions, food parcels and check-ups, and most recently small walking groups.

Outreach support worker Karen Griffiths receives a call

"All services and interactions, many people have told us, have been a lifeline," said Sara. "In the past year we have welcomed almost 1,020 people into the Calmer Cafe."

Despite the hardships undoubtedly forced upon the community as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Sara said the staff at Shropshire MHS had been able to grow as a team.

"We have learnt that our passion and tenacity has shone through, that we are quick to respond when action is needed and dedicated to see things through, rise to challenges when they present and to be brave to continue when others were not," she said.

"A motto I have used with my team is 'tough times don't last, but tough teams do' – we are very proud and blessed to have a tough team."

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