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Mental Health Awareness Week: be kind to social care

22 May 2020

Mental health has been in the spotlight in many ways this week. 

With constant messaging of ‘Stay home and save lives’, deaths with COVID-19 numbers, combined with a personal fear factor and massive changes to our lives, it’s hardly surprising the nation, and indeed the world, is at a heightened state of anxiety.

Mental Health Awareness week has been a timely reminder of just how important it is to take care of our own, and others’ mental health.  

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is kindness. 

Let us reflect for a moment on the definition of this word: kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. 

These qualities are essential qualities for working in the care sector.

By their very nature, carers are kind; the whole national practically teared up when carer Kia Tobin, kindly gifted a cushion with a picture of his late wife to 94-year-old Ken.

But this is just one act of kindness we see daily in our sector. Our colleagues constantly go the extra step to be kind and to make a difference to someone’s life.

And they are doing it all the more in this pandemic. They are assuring people who are frightened and they are keeping them connected with loved ones. Our carer workers are still supporting and managing the challenging behaviours which may result when people don’t understand why they can’t go out or meet up with friends and family. 

Furthermore, our workforce is delivering this care and support in extremely challenging conditions, where a shortage of PPE, lack of clarity on testing and financial strains are all adding to the pressure. 

But as always, the care sector delivers and adapts to ensure people still receive the best possible care they can in the circumstances we find ourselves in. 

In our recent article in Care Management Matters, we spell out the added pressures and challenges the sector is facing, and the knock-on effects on the both workers’ and people who use services’ mental health. 

This is why kindness, supporting the workforce in any way we can, is imperative to ensuring good mental health for everyone. 

Kindness is being shown in many ways. Organisations and individuals have come forward to offer their services, in many cases free of charge or at reduced cost.

For instance, our recent partnership with Big Health gives the care sector workforce free access to apps Daylight and Sleepio to help with sleep and anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic, and there are many other mental health management resources available being offered. 

But support for mental health goes beyond the resources to manage mental health. It’s showing people are valued and appreciated for the work they are doing, sometimes at a personal risk to themselves, to ensure that people in greatest need of support are still cared for. And that includes the cleaners, the chefs, the admin staff and all the other ‘behind the scenes’ staff and volunteers who ensure that care services can be delivered. 

From supermarkets including carers in their priority shopping hours, and our Uber Medics portal giving sector workers a 25% discount on any Uber rides, to putting ‘thank you care sector’ signs on windows, servicing a care sector worker’s car for free or dropping off pizza at a care home, all these acts of kindness can go a long way to helping our workforce stay mentally healthy. 

Mental Health Week has raised awareness of the nation’s mental health, but it is important to continue with the message: carers are kind and right now, more than ever before, we need to continue showing kindness to the sector for many months and possibly years to come.

Lisa Lenton

Chair, Care Provider Alliance