Money from the Wiltshire Community Foundation has helped a Swindon counselling service continue its support for hundreds of anxious and depressed people during the lockdown.
Mental health charity IPSUM is one of 105 groups to have so far received vital funds from the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund, which to date has raised more than £620,000. Already more than £360,000 has been distributed to groups to help them meet the needs of their communities.
IPSUM, which provides counselling for people across Swindon and surrounding area, has been given a £5,000 grant to help it switch from face to face to video and phone sessions for its 400 clients. Director Julie Mattinson said phone calls from new referrals have doubled since March.
She added: “Our counsellors are supporting issues from loneliness and isolation to suicidal ideation, loss and bereavement and so much more. We are receiving calls from people who thought they were going to potentially lose someone to Covid but although, thankfully, they have made a full recovery, the reality of the seriousness has really affected their mental health. Likewise, people who themselves have had it and thought they were going to die have been impacted massively.
“We have people who have become lonely and isolated, they watch the news with the growing death toll and so on, and they haven’t got anyone to talk to about it.
“It’s ironic that we had worked really hard with many people to get them out of isolation before the lockdown and then we had to tell them to stay at home and isolate. That was so tough for IPSUM to say and confusing for a lot of our service users who didn’t quite realise how serious this virus is.”
Aside from counselling the Milton Road group is providing plenty of daily distractions through its art and music therapy sessions online, with regular tutorials and challenges.
“We’ve tried to do lots of tongue in cheek, Blue Peter-style challenges as well. We’ve encouraged people to send us in how they are spending their time and we’ve seen some great creative ideas that are easy to achieve and share. Getting involved with peers across our social media sites really helps if you are feeling alone,” said Mrs Mattinson.
“It’s all about maintaining a connection so people who do feel lonely know that there is someone to talk to and there is something to get engaged with. We just want people to feel they are part of a community. We want people to feel accepted and know that there are a lot of people who are in the same boat.”
Wiltshire Sight has been given more than £4,000 to set up a telephone befriending network for 1,000 people across the county, more than 80 per cent of whom are over 65, suffering from sight loss.
Fundraiser Katie Endecott said: “It is common for people living with sight loss to feel isolated, however this feeling is currently amplified. If they go out at the moment, clients cannot see others to observe social distancing, and their social networks have been cancelled. These clients are struggling with isolation and loneliness, and we have found a number of clients who have also lost their loved ones due to Coronavirus, resulting in them grieving amongst everything else going on around them.”
Community foundation interim chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “These groups are an inspiring example of organisations who have speedily adapted their service so that they can continue to support the people who rely on them and we are delighted to be able to help.
“There are scores of charities who have responded in the same way but will continue to need financial help, and that is why our fund is so important.”
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Appeal or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.