Across Scotland our teams have continued to provide services throughout lockdown, with expansions in some areas. Our Dundee team have some exciting new developments building on the success of our existing NOVA and Carers’ Support Services. In this article, Support Manager, Emma Wilson, talks to Spotlight about the new services and how the team are continuing to support existing and new people throughout lockdown, and adapting to a new way of working.
The Digital Challenge
Overall the staff team were a bit apprehensive about how support would go initially but everyone, including the people accessing our services have adapted brilliantly. Supported people have voiced how useful it is still to have contact with their worker during what has been a very strange and worrying time, leaving some very isolated. People have been given the option of support via phone or video call and we’ve been able to engage people in wellbeing resources using e-mail as well. Some people have found using technology and having support over the phone difficult so if people have not wished to receive support this way, a quick check by their worker each week has been enough reassurance to know they are still connected and have support. The team are well connected in Dundee and have been aware of what provision is still operating meaning that people have been referred for further support where required. This has included food banks, shopping and prescription services, Carers resources and virtual support groups. There’s definitely been some positives come out of this in terms of most people embracing the technology so in the future we hope to be able to provide a greater mix of ways people can engage with our service and receive support.
Following some new funding, we had just been setting up our community based POWWOWs (workshops) when the Covid-19 outbreak happened so our Peer Workers have had to start from the beginning and adjust to the current way of working. We were aware it could be challenging engaging people online for wellbeing workshops so decided by offering weekly conversation cafés, this allows a much more informal way for people to engage with our team, and meet others for informal peer support. These have been running for a few weeks now and already the main feedback from the group at the moment is that they feel it’s a safe place to talk about their feelings. It’s relaxed and people feel included which was our main aim. There’s been lots of sharing of coping strategies and local resources which is one of the main outcome we hope from any POWWOW. Topics discussed so far have included how we cope with loneliness and how the lockdown changes have affected us in positive and negative ways. In forthcoming weeks we’ll be looking at planning for our new normal being aware that as measures are relaxed this can cause a lot of anxieties for some people. The group will be exploring how they stay well and using a personalised wellness toolkit.
New Peer Support Service
This local initiative is an excellent example of partnership working and how the work of Making Recovery Real in Dundee as helped forge positive working relationships across our services. The Peer Support line is a telephone support line for people who have been struggling during lockdown, feeling quite isolated and struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Anxiety, low mood and isolation have been the main presenting themes from contacts and during this time there’s been an overarching sense that it’s OK not be to OK and people are talking more openly about how they’re feeling and their mental health. The Peer volunteers are there to listen and offer coping strategies to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing. People have been sign-posted into agencies for further support including Penumbra, Wellbeing Works and Dundee Healthy Minds Network virtual drop in’s, alongside for more practical information and advice on finances, benefits and housing issues. Although it was anticipated the main contact would be from people calling the line directly, this has not been the case and most contact has come through Workers referring people in. In this instance the Peer Volunteers call people to provide support, sometimes on a weekly basis if they have no other form of support in place. Feedback from callers and workers referring in has been very positive.
Our conversation was a great step for me in find myself again during this lockdown – service user.
We are really proud to have Peer Workers make up the majority of our team mates across the Dundee Services.
You can almost visually see someone’s barriers come down and them relax when they realise our approach and you talk about peer work – I think this is largely due to the fact it’s a much more mutual working relationship.
One of the main benefits of having lived experience in supporting people is being able to give someone hope – living with mental health challenges and being able to manage some of the difficulties that go alongside this is very much possible.
The benefit of having lived experience is having a different level of understanding surrounding the challenges that may arise and being able to offer advice and suggest strategies that have worked personally. Supported people often report having another person who is there to even just listen, without judgement can be the most important thing for them. We also find the informal peer support that happens in groups cannot be underestimated. For some, it’s the first they’ve been around people in similar circumstances and so realising that others are feeling the same and experiencing the same challenges can be a really powerful step in their recovery as they evaluate their sense of self.
Some of the feedback we’ve received from people accessing support has been really positive and highlights the value of Peer Work:
Through attending the workshops and groups I have developed a peer group. These relationships matter, it’s not simply a support, I learn with them and they are non-judgemental. I’m getting out more and my world has opened up – service user.
New Self-Harm Service
We’re really excited too about the new self-harm service which will be launching in August 2020 – a much needed resource for Dundee City. Our funding has come through the Survivors of childhood abuse fund and this in itself acknowledges the importance of trauma informed care and support. Anecdotally we often hear that people who use self-harm as a coping strategy do not receive a good response from services, perhaps because it’s an area that often lacks understanding and can cause anxiety and concern for those providing the support too.
We will be able to offer a confidential, non-judgemental environment where people can openly explore the issues that are causing self-harm.
Although support will explore the self-harming behaviour and alternative means of coping, it’s important we take a holistic approach in ensuring supported people’s needs are being met and the bigger picture being addressed. Our Peer Workers will be providing support on a one to one and group basis. We will also be carrying out awareness raising sessions for other agencies and parents/carers which will be an important part of reducing the stigma surrounding self-harm.
Thank you, Emma, for sharing your exciting news. We can’t wait to catch up with you in a few months’ time for an update on how you’re all getting on. You can find our Dundee team on FACEBOOK.
Fiona Milne is the Communications Officer for Penumbra and can be contacted at email@example.com