Charity work can take a toll on our mental health at the best of times. In the current situation, it’s more important than ever to take care of your own mental health, and that of your employees and volunteers
The outbreak of COVID-19 has not only placed additional stress on charity workers but has also shown that there are many digital mental health resources on offer. Supporting those affected by coronavirus has taken its toll on charity workers’ mental health. Recent reports have highlighted the heavy load of responsibility. In a survey of charitable organisations by Unite the Union, charity workers were found to be “suffering an epidemic of mental health issues and stress.” The survey revealed that 80% of respondents had experienced workplace stress over the last year, with 22% of those saying that they did not feel they worked in a safe and healthy environment.
Widely accessible digital mental health support resources and services come in all shapes and sizes – for both organisations and for individuals.
Charity digital leaders can help to protect their workforces. Mind, the mental health charity, launched a free online programme to promote better working environments. Specially tailored to smaller non-profits and charities with less than 250 employees, the online programme has three training modules: mental health awareness, self-care, and employee support.
"Each topic covered can be completed independently and includes a range of facts, short informative videos, and links to valuable resources and support. I especially liked the relaxation topic in the second module and will definitely be trying some of the techniques suggested," said Alison Stainthorpe, Head of Operations at CancerCare. CancerCare is amongst one of the charities testing the new programme.
Mental Health Foundation also offers support for charity workers. Worries about the pandemic and lockdown restrictions have meant that people have had to adapt to a new pace of life. The charity offers online tips for how to manage mental health while at home. Most useful are some of the tips around managing time, staying active, relaxation techniques, and sleep improvements. Importantly, charity workers can access updated information as and when guidance becomes live.
Charity workers looking for both mental health support and guidance on coronavirus resources can turn to Recovery College Online. Funded by Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, the online course offers practical advice on how not to catch or spread the virus, how to manage feelings aroused by the pandemic, and how to cope during isolation and social distancing. The online course also covers the latest advice from Public Health England. Simple check-lists have also been added to make sure that audiences work through thought processes provisioning for money, food, health and other commitments.
Support for the country’s valued front-line health workers has gone online. Frontline health and key workers can access mental health services individually by phone or text. A collaboration between charities Shout, Samaritans, Mind, Hospice UK and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, workers can immediately seek help and find information on mental health through Our Frontline’s digital toolkit. The toolkits have been customised for different types of charity workers, including emergency services, healthcare, key workers, and social care staff. Our Frontline also offers 24hr support for those in need.
Tailored around the impacts of coronavirus, Anxiety UK has launched focused webinars addressing different types of anxiety. Available on the charity’s website and YouTube channel, some of the most popular streamed videos include topics covering mental health and staying at home and managing feelings around claustrophobia. During the livestream, audiences can engage and ask questions. Along with other efforts, Anxiety UK has also been using the hashtag #Coronanxiety on Twitter to corral ideas to together. Charity workers can visit the Twitter hashtag and check out the latest digital resources, support offerings, and collaborations with other charities.
Already well-recognised in digital health services, the NHS provides a list of mobile phone apps which can help charity workers manage negative thoughts and stress. Many of the apps offer confidential on-demand therapy sessions with registered healthcare professionals. For more serious issues, online courses are also available for those looking to address specific needs. Charity workers can ask their local NHS mental health service providers for a referral to online courses. SilverCloud offers digital cognitive behaviour therapy to help sufferers change the way they think and feel about problems over eight weeks.
While not recognised by the NHS, alternative apps are also available. The Sanvello app includes multiple support services, including peer-to-peer support, therapy, self-care, and coaching. Using confidential chat technology, the app lets users explore confidential chat groups to help broaden support networks. In response to COVID-19, the app’s developers are offering free trials.