'Help is here' say mental health services across Sunderland as pandemic puts people off seeking support

Don’t ignore your mental health – help is available.

Tuesday, 29th December 2020, 6:00 am

That is the plea from GPs in Sunderland as they urge people not to put off seeking help because of worries around Covid and service pressures.

The numbers of people referring themselves to mental health services, or contacting their GP with concerns, dropped dramatically at the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown, with referrals to Sunderland Psychological Wellbeing Service falling by 53% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

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People across Wearside have been urged to seek help for their mental health during the ongoing pandemic after services saw a drop at the start of the outbreak as patients feared the NHS was under pressure.

Although referral rates rose to normal rates in the following months, doctors are reminding people not to put off seeking help.

Dr Saira Malik, a local GP and clinical lead for Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “From the start of the first lockdown, Sunderland Psychological Wellbeing Service has remained open for business and patients have been invited to have their therapy sessions provided by telephone or video.

"Understandably some people who needed help with their mental health were nervous about this and stayed away from services for a short while.

"This is no longer the case.

“Referrals back into these services have increased and this is exactly what we want to see.

“Yes, the service is being run a little differently, with a lot being done online and over the phone, but these services can still help you if you need it, so please don’t put off.

"Get help before it gets worse.”

Heather Blackburn, Clinical Manager at Sunderland Psychological Wellbeing Service, added: "We want to reassure people that although our help has to be provided remotely at the moment, it is still there and can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy, so please get in touch if you are struggling.”

One patient said: “I thought the appointments being over the telephone due to Covid-19 would be strange, but it was actually very supportive.

“The different ideas and approaches my therapist has suggested to my ways of thinking have made a huge difference, and even those around me have commented on seeing the change in myself.”

The service offers an online therapy programme, known as SilverCloud, where appropriate, running personalised courses based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Anyone in Sunderland who needs support can call (0191) 566 5454 or visit www.sunderlandiapt.co.uk.

Those who need urgent help can call 0800 652 2867 at any time.

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