Harrogate mental health charity's important message to us all during coronavirus outbreak

Leading mental health charities for the Harrogate district have urged residents to remember that social distancing does not mean losing contact, and that we all need to actively make an effort to reach out at a time when anxiety is spiralling, and we need each other more than ever.

Harrogate District Mind has thrown an open challenge to the town to turn the connotations of social distancing on their head - to continue strictly following the government’s instructions, but using this isolating period as an opportunity to connect with each other even more and show we care by overcoming these barriers.

The charity’s chief executive Tina Chamberlain said that while we live in unprecedented times where anxiety is peaking for many people due to the uncertainty and fear associated with coronavirus, the uninterrupted chance we have to meaningfully help each other away from the usual busyness of life is also equally unprecedented.

She said a phone call, text, letter through the door, or showing just a bit of thought could prove a critical intervention when someone is struggling with their mental health.

Just some of the team at Mind pictured last year.

Tina said: “Humans are gregarious animals, we need contact with other people, and the fact we have got to isolate ourselves and not have that face-to-face contact can be very damaging for mental health, even though it is something we need to do to keep us all safe. But we can still help each other and be there for one another while still sticking to the government’s guidelines.

"It’s so important when you’re stuck at home and you feel lonely and isolated to know that someone cares and is there for you, even if it’s not physically at the moment.

“Coronavirus will have an impact on us all, it’s unprecedented times, but there are things we can all do as individuals to mitigate against that - it’s trying to stay in contact as much as we can.”

Although the country’s lockdown meant Mind was forced to close the doors of its Acorn drop-in centre on Station Parade, a helpline is up and running from the charity for anyone who is struggling with their mental health during this worrying period.

Mind will also be ringing its regular service users in Harrogate to check in with them, see how they are, and ask if they have all the food and essential supplies they need, working with other partner agencies within the town to react if this isn’t the case.

The charity is also happy to give advice on how residents can switch off from the anxiety of coronavirus - Tina said it’s an ideal time to learn a new skill and keep our minds active in a positive way.

She said: “If people are getting to the end of their tether, just give us a call. No one has to be on their own, there is always support out there, and don’t be afraid to ask for help, we are all in the same boat.”

Harrogate charity Disability Action Yorkshire is also doing its bit by inviting people with disabilities who are isolating themselves from the coronavirus outbreak to call them for a chat.

Chief executive Jackie Snape said: “Whilst our customers have staff members and each other to speak to during this period, there will be disabled people self-isolating on their own with little or no contact with the outside world.

“With this in mind, we are saying that if a disabled person wants a chat, then give us a call. However, we are not here to offer any advice, just to be there on the end of the phone for a natter.”

A number of helplines have opened in the Harrogate district to offer support to anyone who might need it.

- Harrogate Mind’s phone line, 01423 503335, is operated Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10am to 4pm.

- Disability Action Yorkshire’s phone line, 01423 855410, is available between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday.

- North Yorkshire County Council is offering support by signposting residents to key services. Call: 01609 780780.