Historically, our Service users had a building to come to meet, a place where they felt safe and met and socialised with others who had severe and enduring mental health issues. It has often been said that real growth begins by stepping out of your comfort zone and when the UK went into lockdown due to covid 19 pandemic in late March 2020, everyone to some extent was forced to break habits, try something new and put themselves in totally new situations. Caledonia Service premises were closed as were many buildings, and initially the thought of ‘nowhere to go’ for our service users was daunting, scary and uncomfortable.
Following government guidelines of adhering to social distancing, and due to some fabulous dry warm weather in spring and summer, staff met with our service users for long walks, enjoying the fresh air and chatting. Soon we were able to meet in small groups to do this. Friendships were made, people started connecting out with our service, going for lunches and coffees, phoning and facetiming each other, meeting up at weekends without staff. Covid 19 pushed everyone out of their comfort zone and by doing so our service users have developed new skills, confidence, integration in society and have naturally achieved more than ever before. This work is still continuing throughout the pandemic.
One service user found this a real struggle as for many years he attended the service within the building 5 days per week volunteering with the running of the kitchen. Isolation, the lack of routine and ‘normal life’ was a big worry as well as the impact it would have on his Mental Health. He felt like it was “the end of the world”. However, during these past few months he has met regularly with staff and other service users for coffee and chats, and often meets with other service users on his own now that his confidence had grown. Instead of eating his normal frozen food and take away in the evenings we now meet at his home once weekly wearing PPE and together cook healthy, fresh meals which he can refrigerate/freeze for the week. This has been beneficial to both his physical, mental health and has improved his financial status.
With staff support he is now able to keep in touch with staff and service users through video call on his iPad he received from the service and has even managed to have videos of himself singing posted on Caledonia Service Facebook. He looks forward to reading all the positive comments posted by others. He’s both proud and impressed with himself at the positive changes during this time. So as much as ‘normal life’ may be no more sometimes a change can work out well, and it’s certainly not been the end of the world.
We worked in partnership with Connected Scotland and received 2 iPad`s and 3 Chromebook`s to allocate to Service Users who were struggling with isolation during the pandemic. We allocated the 5 through our Digital Champion worker who installed and set up step by step guides for Service Users, this gave the individuals the opportunity to communicate with family, friends, virtual appointments and local services. This has allowed people to stay connected throughout this pandemic and offer other ways to communicate and access support in ever changing times.
In the summer of Covid Caledonia Service staff member heard of the possibility of obtaining a grant through the NHS Forth Valley namely the Health Promotion Service.
Covid-19 Response Grant 2020-2021
Applications were to be considered from organisations across Forth Valley which support and connect communities and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Applicants were to address one or preferably both of the Health Promotion Service priorities, Health Inequalities and Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Caledonia Service offers support to adults in this area with a severe and enduring mental health condition and we are acutely aware of these concerns and have identified the significant benefits of group physical activities one of which we have maintained throughout the pandemic…cycling.
The grant offered a fantastic opportunity to purchase the tools; bikes and helmets; which will enable us to reach out to people in our community who through many reasons do not have the use of a bicycle. This would allow them to regain, learn or relearn cycling skills which will enable them to participate in an organised group activity safely, bringing with such participation the attendant physical, mental and emotional wellbeing that comes from the exercise.
We were delighted to be successful in our application and look forward to seeing the benefits throughout the months to come as we strive to overcome the challenges faced by the pandemic.