NHS mental health Trusts and councils have promised action to limit the pandemic’s long-term impact on the wellbeing of South Londoners at a virtual community summit this week.
The initiative involved Citizens UK and other community groups working with the three NHS mental health trusts and 12 boroughs to help prevent a mental health crisis and ensure local people and communities recover from the pandemic together.
A survey commissioned for South London Listens revealed that 78 per cent of people have been feeling isolated since the start of the pandemic and 76 per cent have experienced loneliness. Some 81 per cent of people have felt powerless.
Around 500 community leaders and members of the public joined the virtual event on Wednesday evening to hear public sector leaders make a series of specific pledges at the climax of South London Listens, a listening campaign that started last year.
More than 5,700 people told community leaders about the pandemic-related pressures on them and those they care about in one-to-one and group meetings.
As well as loneliness and isolation, other key themes which emerged included:
- Parental mental health
- Children and young people
- Work and wages
- Access to services
- Digital exclusion.
Commenting on the summit, Vanessa Ford, Chief Executive, South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust said: “It was inspiring to see hundreds of people across South London coming together to call for meaningful action on mental health in response to the impacts of Covid-19.
“We know the effects of the pandemic will be felt for some time to come and that more needs to be done to tackle the inequalities that it has highlighted.
“It has been heartening to see people coming together through the South London Listens campaign to discuss these issues.
“And we are proud to be taking forward the full set of pledges and working with partners across the regions to develop the programme’s action plan.”
Ann Beasley, Chair, South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust said: “Through South London Listens, 6,000 people have helped us to chart a course to develop mentally healthier communities in South West London.
“This exercise has given us insights into the impacts the pandemic has had on our communities’ mental health and wellbeing and has given leaders tangible actions to take forward to address the challenges we face.
“We now look forward to playing our part in the programme’s next phase, and delivering on the pledges we have made.”
Millie Banerjee, Chair, South West London Health and Care Partnership said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, collaboration is more important than ever.
“South London Listens has been a fantastic campaign, bringing people together and helping leaders to better understand the mental health challenges that matter.
“Our community has spoken and we have listened. From tackling inequalities to delivering for our children and young people, the work now begins to deliver meaningful action to prevent mental ill-health and promote wellbeing in communities across south London.”
The commitments that the mental health trusts signed up to include:
- Working with community groups and local authorities to train hundreds of local people as Mental Health Champions who can support others and signpost them to professional help
- Work with community organisations to become Mental Health Hubs where people can talk and get up to date information on mental health support.
- Work with councils and community groups to develop a social isolation, loneliness and digital inclusion strategy
- Supporting and resourcing parent groups to offer peer-to-peer and other mental health support
- Developing a ‘virtual waiting room’ where children and young waiting for mental health treatment are kept better informed and given bespoke digital tools
- Training and equipping staff to understand and overcome barriers that members of black and ethnic minority communities face in accessing mental health services
- Champion the Living Wage within the health sector more widely, including encouraging GP surgeries, Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospitals to become Living Wage employers.
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