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Reflections from a Mental Health Officer

Our Committee Member and Mental Health Officer, Ian Jeffries, reflects on how his work has changed since Covid-19

Covid-19 restrictions are placing a strain on everyone’s mental health, but it is particularly evident within mental health services. Many of the things that support and sustain positive mental health and wellbeing are not available and we’re seeing many people who are struggling to cope with the restrictions. The recently published Mental Welfare Commission report into use of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2003 during the pandemic confirms that more people were detained during the pandemic than in previous years. There has also been an increase in Emergency detention Certificates (EDC) with a reduction in MHO involvement both of which are a concern in terms of protecting people’s rights.

Overall it seems like people are having to cope with more in relation to the pandemic with less or no support.  There is little face to face support available in the community and for many people (especially those with more complex difficulties) the alternatives such as support by video calls are not sufficient. There are significant problems associated with isolation and lack of activities but it can sometimes be the practical things that can make a big difference such as sorting benefits, clearing away clutter, getting out to the shops or just having someone to speak to. We’re finding that Mental Health Officers and social workers are being pulled into fill these gaps in addition to their usual role. It’s definitely felt busy, and at times slightly overwhelming.    

In terms of adapting to the new ways, working  between home and the hospital feels fairly normal now. As does participating in Mental health tribunals from my living room hoping that the doorbell doesn’t ring midway through,  however, I’ve not managed to adapt to my glasses steaming up when wearing a mask so have had to revert to contact lenses.