Following an escalation in mental health issues and anxiety in Ceredigion, we have found a way to reopen our Camfan Drop-In service in Lampeter, an essential service that provides a lifeline to vulnerable people in the area.
At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, we were all learning new ways of working and adapting to the changing circumstances. Just like shops, high streets and restaurants, many Pobl services and offices have been asked to close with colleagues working from home and support being provided remotely.
This was the case with Pobl’s Camfan service in Lampeter, a mental health Drop-In service for the Ceredigion area, where clients are welcome to visit the office and our friendly colleagues will provide advice and support at the time when it’s most needed.
The team quickly realised that the closure of the Drop-in service will have a negative effect on the clients, so they made every effort to arrange phone contact with everyone who required it. After five days, it was evident that some individuals were not coping mentally with the new situation and found it difficult to function daily without direct support. Sadly, one client attempted suicide and was hospitalised for several days.
Louise Jenkins, who manages the Camfan project, realised the importance of the service being accessible:
“I raised the concerns with my manager, Annette Brenchley, and following a lengthy discussion of what support we could offer while continuing to keep clients and ourselves safe, a proposal was put to the local health board. It was agreed that we could continue 1-1 support with our most vulnerable clients in Camfan.”
The priority was recognised that, during these challenging times, people need to have access to mental health support in the best way possible whilst making sure the social distancing rules are being put in place to protect Pobl colleagues as well as the clients.
“We made a ‘safe area’ where people could come. Individuals can come into an area where there is a large table. They can sit on one side and the support worker on the other. This ensures there is a two-metre gap between us at all times. The client is offered a cup of tea in a disposable cup to minimise cross contamination. Time can be spent chatting in a normal environment, they can discuss worries and talk through any issues.”
The team can see the benefits of the service remaining open and the increasing number of clients who use it daily.
“I have no one in my life to tell, or check on me, if I become mentally unwell. Knowing someone cares enough to see me face to face, in this awful time, is giving me a reason to keep living and see a life beyond Covid19. They are showing that there is still some normality in this mad world. The staff are decorating for when we reopen, this gives me hope!!”
Apart from advice on mental health support, the Camfan team provide help with accessing benefits and medication deliveries.
“It feels like someone threw me a lifeline when I was drowning. They are helping me keep my head above the water”
A lot of people have said they feel abandoned just when they need the help, as lots of community mental health services have changed or stopped.
“[Camfan] is a reliable and constant place I can come to de-stress and talk about problems, reducing my paranoia and enabling me to keep myself safe.”
Just talking face to face appears to make a big difference to people’s mood. The team discuss alternative thoughts and actions when clients’ mood is low and help them develop their own action plans to keep themselves safe.
“I know I can call in and see a friendly face, it’s ok to say I’m not ok. The little things make a big difference.”
For those who cannot access the Drop-In service, the team are organising telephone calls as often as individuals need it. They are also gathering useful information and putting together a newsletter to share with everyone via WhatsApp or email. The team are sharing ideas and encouraging conversations within the group.
Donations of seeds, plants and compost were distributed amongst clients too. They can try their hand at gardening and share photos with the team.
“I only needed to call in a couple of times. They gave me the idea to get motivated and grow some things in the garden. Can’t wait to eat what I’ve grown and bring some in to share with others.”
“Today, I sat and ate a sandwich with another person. This is the first time in four weeks I have had company to eat with. I have not felt like eating as it seems pointless alone. We have planned meals I can easily make at home for the next week. I feel I have something to look forward to.”
“Camfan is a safe place I can come to while my wife goes and gets some shopping. She is my fulltime carer and we have no break from each other. When we go home we have something different to talk about now. We have actually found something to laugh about again.”
The clients’ heart-rendering comments represent a glimpse into the amazing support they receive through Camfan and the difference it makes to their lives. The tremendous team deserve all the thanks for making this possible. They, like the clients, are truly inspirational Annette Brenchley, Area Manager for Pembrokeshire & Ceredigion