COVID-19 is having a severe impact on many people’s health and wellbeing, and living and working through this unprecedented pandemic continues to be an extremely difficult and challenging time for many people.
We’ve produced the following guidance to help you look after yourself and your friends and family while we all adjust to living and working in new ways.
Looking after your mental health
COVID-19 has now had a far reaching impact on people right across the world and it’s important during this time to take care of your mind as well as your body.
It’s natural to feel worried in unpredictable times. Try to keep things in perspective - public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the best possible care for those affected.
COVID-19 has also impacted on many of the normal coping strategies we use to deal with stress, and on the everyday activity that underpins our emotional wellbeing. During this time, we may need to be more creative and thoughtful about how we look after ourselves.
If you’re frequently having intrusive and negative thoughts, take a moment to assess how realistic these truly are. Reframing negative or unhelpful thoughts into more realistic statements can help you maintain a healthy dose of optimism.
You might find the following resources helpful:
- Wellbeing and mental health during COVID-19 - a guide to looking after yourself and others
- guidance on coronavirus and your wellbeing from Mind, the mental health charity
- Coronavirus staying at home tips from the NHS
- government guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus
- how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak from the Mental Health Foundation
- self-help guides on different subjects from the NHS
- Every Mind Matters - mental health and wellbeing advice
- Good Thinking provides online wellbeing resources
Try mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can be really helpful tools for managing stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. If you’ve never tried them before, it’s easier than ever to get started. There are lots of resources available online:
- read information on mindfulness from Mind, the mental health charity
- check out additional mindfulness info and tips from Mind
- find information on mindfulness from the NHS
- try this bedtime meditation video from the NHS
- try free online guided meditation classes from Brighton Natural Health Centre
- use one of the popular guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm
- search for guided meditations on YouTube
If you find it more peaceful to be away from technology, try sitting comfortably in a quiet space for 5 to 10 minutes with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath and breathing slowly.
Keep your mind active
Keeping your mind active and learning new things is good for your wellbeing. And a perfect distraction during these challenging times.
It can be a good idea to:
- get creative - draw, colour, make a playlist, bake, write a song
- get a new hobby - play guitar, learn to cook, try a new exercise
- home school - there are thousands of online courses waiting for you
- pay attention - take time to look at what’s going on around you
Beat Corona anxiety
It’s natural to feel anxious about what’s happening right now, but if it begins to feel too much, try to:
- limit your news coverage - avoid constantly checking the news, it only makes your anxiety grow stronger - limit yourself to 30 minutes a day or particular broadcasts
- concentrate on the facts - use official, reputable sources for news, advice and opinion and be cautious of social media coverage
- focus on what you can control - we can’t control the COVID-19 crisis but we can control our own responses and behaviours to it - think ahead, make plans for what you’ll do in the coming days and weeks
- distract yourself - our minds struggle to hold 2 thoughts at one time - distract yourself with exercise, games, books, films or other activities
- connect with others - reach out and connect with friends and family, in safe ways - you can share your fears or talk about nothing in particular
- be nice to yourself - add extra time for stress relief in your day - treat yourself whenever you need and do things you enjoy, within the limits of existing restrictions
- hold on to hope - keep the big picture in mind - the crisis will end, and we will get through this
Manage your 'stress bucket'
Stress is a part of everyday life. It can help us take action and work productively. But if our stress bucket becomes full, it can overwhelm us and impact negatively on our mental health.
Everyday stressors (like work, money and family) flow into that stress bucket like rain. But we also have ways of coping that allow this stress to flow out, like holes in the bucket.
But right now:
- our stress bucket might be getting fuller - it’s raining more due to COVID-19
- some of our normal ways of coping, the holes in our stress bucket, might be unavailable due to the current situation
- we might need to re-think how we cope with stress and this section of the website will give you some ideas of how you can look after your wellbeing during COVID-19
Draw your own stress bucket. What are some of the 'rain clouds'? And what are some of the 'holes'?
Set a routine
Having a routine is very effective at warding off anxiety and worry. You could:
- write a timetable for your week
- pick regular times to exercise, eat, watch TV, read, do a crossword and so on
- maintain normal sleep patterns
- set regular hours, if you work from home
- build in regular time to keep in contact with people
- set yourself goals and build in new activity to your weekly plan
Connect with people
Connections with other people are the bedrock of our mental wellbeing.
Though contact with others is challenged by current restrictions, it's more important to maintain than ever. You may not be able to pop round for a cuppa or meet with friends in the pub but you can still connect through:
- social media
- a conversation over the garden fence
- writing a letter
Share your worries
It’s normal to feel worried or helpless about the current situation and how its impacting on you. Share your concerns with people you trust. It may also help them to talk about it.
Or, if you're feeling isolated from other people, there are helplines and online forums where you can find a listening ear.
Social distancing is about physical distance, not emotional distance.
Helping others is a great way of boosting your wellbeing. And now is a time when giving to others can make a real difference.
There are a large number of volunteering opportunities to support the COVID-19 response, like being an NHS responder. But also the opportunity to help practically, like shopping for a neighbour and so on.
One of the most important things you have to offer right now is your time. Make contact with others, reach out, check-in to show you care.
Support those at increased risk of poor mental health
Older adults, especially those in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated or withdrawn during the outbreak or while in quarantine.
You can help by:
- providing practical and emotional support with help from family, friends and health professionals
- sharing simple facts from trusted sources about what’s going on - give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words that are easy to understand, especially for those with a cognitive impairment
- repeating essential information whenever necessary - instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful and patient way, it may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures
Get help if you’re struggling
While it's normal to feel afraid and lonely at a time like this, worsening mental health could indicate the need for outside help. It’s okay to ask for more support to see you through this difficult time.
If you find yourself with very poor mental health while isolated and aren't able to pull yourself out of feelings of anxiety, depression, or fear, it’s important to reach out for help:
- Sussex Mental Healthline – freephone 0300 5000 101 – provides 24/7 support from registered clinicians and as well as crisis support, it provides psychological support to anyone with general concerns about their mental health, and if needed they can refer you for local assessment and treatment
- Samaritans – call 116 123 – 24hrs a day, 365 days a year - you can talk to them about whatever’s getting to you, in your own way, and they can also help you explore the range of help available
- Community Roots – online or freephone 0808 196 1768 – a network of local services committed to supporting good mental health and wellbeing in Brighton & Hove
- contact your GP or phone NHS 111 - be open about how you are feeling, talk to a friend and plan what you want to say, and if possible get someone you live with to accompany you
- SHOUT - text Shout to 85258 - crisis text service for support with any mental health concern 24/7
- CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably - phone 0800 58 58 58 - helpline for men of all ages, open from 5pm to midnight
- Silverline - phone 0800 470 80 90 for information, friendship and advice for older people 24/7
Plan how you will continue accessing treatment and support for any existing physical or mental health problems, if possible.
Thoughts of suicide
Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon – a lot of people will have them - around 1 in 5 of us during our lifetime. Having these thoughts doesn’t make it inevitable that you are going to take your own life. Thoughts of suicide do pass and there are things that you and other people can do to make your situation better.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, focus on what you need to do to keep yourself safe for now. Visit Preventing Suicide in Sussex to learn more about what practical steps you can take to keep yourself safe.
This can include:
- finding ways to distract yourself that allow the feelings to pass
- phoning a helpline or someone you can trust
- avoiding using alcohol and drugs
- removing things from your house that you could use to harm yourself
- going somewhere you feel safe, if you can
- knowing who you can contact if you need professional support – this might be your key worker, your GP, NHS 111 or others
- making a Hopebox – a list, or photos, or objects that remind you of why you want to live
If you feel you can’t keep yourself safe any longer, or if you have done something to harm yourself – call 999 now. The number is free.
Financial wellbeing is also important in managing your mental health:
- get financial guidance from Money Saving Expert
- advice from Step Change, the debt charity:
Taking advantage of some time to yourself
Being alone doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re used to surrounding yourself with friends and family or even prefer the company of strangers, learning to appreciate the joys of being by yourself may take time.
Having friendships and a strong social support system is important for your mental health and wellbeing, but having some time to yourself may help you appreciate those connections all the more.
Learn to value solitude
Research increasingly shows there are real benefits to finding things to do by yourself. Through solitary pursuits, you learn more about yourself and reflect on your experiences.
This could be the perfect opportunity to take up a new hobby, read those books you always wanted to read, pick up that guitar that has been gathering dust in the corner.
Being on your own can:
- improve concentration and memory - working alone can help you focus your attention, which can improve your retention and memory recall
- make your interests a priority – being alone is an important part of self-development and allows you to get to know yourself - having some time to yourself gives you a chance to make creative choices and focus your attention without worrying about what other people are thinking
- boost creativity - where group efforts are often about achieving consensus and fitting in with the crowd, solo work encourages innovation without added social pressure - you can enjoy activities you love at your own pace and in your own way
- improve your relationships - relationships are often strongest when each person takes time to take care of themselves - even when it comes to friendships, the old adage may be true - a little absence might really make the heart grow fonder
Think about your post-isolation future
While it may feel like this period of solitude will last longer than you might normally be comfortable with, there will come a time when you'll be back to your usual routines. One way to feel less alone now is to take positive actions now for the future.
- make a list of all the things you want to do in the future
- plant some spring bulbs if you have a garden or balcony
- declutter – make the home environment as nice as possible by clearing out things you don’t need any more or have been meaning to get rid of, saving any unwanted items to donate to charity once it’s safe to do so
- have a digital clear out – delete unused apps and photos, update software, sort through email inboxes
- plan a fun event with friends or family for when you’re out of isolation
Make short-term plans too
You could think about tasks on your to do list that you've been avoiding, like:
- make a to do list of jobs around the home
- work out what household supplies you need and how you can get them - if you can't get out yourself, ask a friend or try a home delivery service
- contact your GP or pharmacist to discuss how you can get any ongoing medicine or repeat prescriptions delivered, or collected
Using the library
Our libraries may be closed but there are some great online services available to everyone who lives or works in the city.
Free resources available from the library
Free eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines and eComics for all library members! Anyone who lives, works or studies in Brighton & Hove is entitled to join. You can view what's available on the library website.
If people are not yet members, then you can register for a library card online. We will give you a temporary membership number and PIN. You will then be able to use the library's eServices.
If you need help you can send an email to email@example.com.
While it's natural to focus on managing your mental wellbeing during a crisis, we sometimes forget that our physical and mental health are closely related.
Whether it’s a few star jumps in your bedroom, yoga, dancing or walking, exercise helps get the adrenaline out of your system and channels any stress or anxiety you may feel.
Very importantly, it will also keep the body well in terms of heart and lung, bone and muscle health. This can:
- protect our overall health
- keep us functioning day to day
- ensure we are all able to look after ourselves
Evidence tells us that prolonged periods of sitting are not good for our health. So it's important to try to move around your home as much as possible.
Can you stand up each time a TV advert break comes on? Can you walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes before sitting down for lunch?
Exercises you can do you at home
Stay active indoors. There is a wide range of online or TV exercise programmes, for all ages. Or develop your own indoor workout, set yourself challenges and plan a daily routine.
Our Healthy Lifestyles team shares a lot of useful online content throughout the day which can help people of all ages keep moving. They also create online content, including the Active for Life Challenge and Stretching with Vanessa.
Find out more about how to stay active at home.
Check the Brighton & Hove Healthy Lifestyles Facebook for updates on activities.
To help you stay fit while isolating, you can follow:
- advice from Sport England on how to stay active
- the British Heart Foundation’s 10 minute living room workout
Find more information and advice about how to stay active at home during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Getting outdoors for some fresh air can really help with your wellbeing and green spaces, especially boost our wellbeing. Go out for a walk or run, spend time in your garden. Within current guidelines we can all exercise outdoors for up to one hour:
- on our own
- alone with one other person from outside our household or support bubble
- with members of our household or support bubble
You should also stay local wherever possible, and avoid areas that you know can get busy.
If you need a bit of extra motivation to get outside and get walking, you could try the Healthwalks World Walking Challenge. It lets you put your steps and miles walked towards a virtual walking challenge to Everest!
You can put any walks, done on your own or with your household or support bubble towards the walk challenge, and chat and share virtually with other local walkers along the way.
Find out all the ways you can get involved in the Healthwalks World Walking Challenge.
We've also produced a series of walking challenges designed for children and people with learning disabilities. From front door colour bingo to nature spotting, you can find the walking challenges on Facebook.
Or if you don't have Facebook, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll send them to you in a printable format.
Staying safe while exercising
Whenever you’re exercising, please do so with caution and only if you feel well enough.
Support to keep cycling during COVID-19
Cycling is one the government's recommended forms of exercise that can be done safely while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you want to cycle more while following current guidelines for safe physical distancing, you'll find the following resources useful to help you on your way (especially if you're a key worker who can travel to work by bike).
The council's online cycle map will show you the fastest, quietest and balanced routes using a way-finding function.
Ride Healthy has hints, tips and advice on getting back on your bike so you can ride safely and confidently.
Love to Ride is an online platform and mobile app that encourages cycling.
Use the Highway Code rules for cyclists for guidance on road junctions, roundabouts, crossing the road and more.
Sustrans is a charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle.
Cycling UK is a national cycling charity. Its mission is to enable more people to cycle. Visit the website here and use their resources to plan cycle and walking routes.
Zedify is a Brighton based zero-emissions delivery company that uses e-cargo bikes for first and last mile deliveries and local deliveries in Brighton & Hove.
Bicycle M-check and Learn to Ride - learn how to look after your bicycle by following the M-check system. There is also a useful video showing you how to do this.
Cycle shops open during COVID-19
Find cycling shops that are currently open in Brighton & Hove and are supporting NHS staff and other key workers. Please contact the shops and service providers directly to find out opening times and how they are currently operating.
Getting some good sleep
What is good sleep and why is it important?
Sleep is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing – we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping.
A continuous stretch of 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night is recommended, although studies suggest that sleep quality (continuity and depth of sleep) has a greater impact on good daytime functioning than overall length of sleep. Just one night of poor quality sleep can negatively affect your attention span, memory recall and learning ability.
Lack of sleep in the longer term can increase the risk of stress, anxiety and depression, while physical effects include an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
Sleep problems often resolve themselves within a few weeks, but longer stretches of bad sleep can start to affect our lives and work, and impact on our health in the short and longer term.
What are the signs of poor sleep?
- Waking up several times during the night
- waking up earlier than anticipated
- waking up tired
- feeling constantly tired
- having a low mood or feeling irritable
- lack of concentration and alertness.
…and what can cause it?
- Pregnancy, breastfeeding and childcare
- stressful life events such as divorce or bereavement
- getting older, menopause and perimenopause
- caring responsibilities
- physical or mental health problems
- existing medical conditions
- prescribed drugs or medication
- alcohol and substance misuse
- too much screen time on your mobile device, computer, TV or games console
- studying or working hours, being a commuter or a shift worker.
Top tips for better sleep
Stick to a sleep schedule – going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day helps regulate your body clock. Avoid napping in the afternoon if you have problems sleeping.
Get active – being physically active can help you sleep better, and doing gentle exercise before bed may also help.
Watch what you eat and drink – alcohol, caffeine, some soft drinks and foods such as chocolate can affect sleep. Cut down on caffeine after 2pm and avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary meals before bedtime.
Cut down or quit smoking – nicotine is a stimulant so it may take longer to fall asleep or your sleep may be disrupted.
Reduce screen time – avoid bright lights and any electronic devices for an hour or two before bed to help separate your sleep time from too much stimulation.
Establish a bedtime routine – help your body shift into sleep mode before bed with calming activities like having a warm (not hot) bath, reading, listening to the radio or quiet music.
Create a restful sleeping environment
- Block out distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible
- keep the room cool, between 16 and 20°C, and well ventilated
- use comfortable, inviting bedding with a good mattress
- remove work, computers, televisions and phones from the bedroom.
Are you a night or shift worker?
If you often need sleep during the day, remember:
- Light has an alerting effect - when you leave work during the day try wearing sunglasses, and use darkening shades or curtains when you sleep or wear a sleep mask
- let your family and friends know when you need to sleep undisturbed
- if you are troubled by noise try a white noise machine, a fan or earplugs.
Still having trouble sleeping?
Don’t lie awake in bed for hours feeling stressed. Try getting up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.
Write down your thoughts - set aside time before bed to make a list for the next day, which can help. If you have work-related worries you could chat to a colleague or your manager.
If problems with sleep are persisting and affecting your daily life and health, talk to your GP.
- Keep a sleep diary – use the template from the NHS to help you record your sleep quality
- Sleepstation - overcome insomnia and sleep better with this free app from the NHS
- Samaritans - whatever you’re going through, a Samaritan will face it with you, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123
- Read advice from the NHS on how to get good sleep.
- Food and mood – advice from Mind, the mental health charity
- For those who have stockpiled food – basic food safety advice (Food Standards Agency)
- Hungry, isolated or can’t access food? Get help from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
- How to grow food throughout the year - Brighton & Hove Food Partnership
- Food and nutrition tips during self-quarantine - World Health Organization
Alternatives to supermarket shopping include local veg and food deliveries. Please note that as demand is high for food supplies, the independent suppliers may also be at capacity and unable to provide a delivery as soon as you’d like.
Local suppliers still operating include:
- Beelivery - food delivery
- Brighton express meats - home delivery
- The Flour Pot - bread, eggs, milk - home delivery
- Hankham Organics – veg, fruit and eggs - home delivery
- Harriet’s of Hove – click and collect/home delivery
- Hove fish shack - home delivery
- The Mac’s Farm Sussex – visit the farm to buy eggs (Mon-Sat)
- Pale Green Dot – home deliveries
- The Sussex Peasant – shop online
- V&H café Hove – bread, eggs, veg boxes – takeaway and home delivery
Changes to our routines can be a time when unhealthy habits can start to develop, or they can be good times to make small changes to improve your health.
Eating well, drinking enough water and keeping active in lockdown are important to support your health and wellbeing.
Working well from home
For many of us home working is now the standard. Here’s a few simple ways you can focus on improving your wellbeing, while still being productive.
It's helpful to:
- get work ready - shift your mindset, set a designated space in your house to work from and try dressing as if you were going into work
- set schedules and goals - set yourself some simple goals for the day and break your work down into bite sized portions - schedule regular breaks and leave your workspace
- get fresh air - make sure you get time to leave the house, even if it’s your garden, or leaning out a window - go for a walk, run or ride if you can
- balance work and home life - let your line manager know what kind of flexibility you need to manage commitments at home around your work schedule - would it be helpful to alter your working pattern?
- manage expectations with colleagues and those you live with - not everyone has a dedicated home office space, so it’s a good idea to be clear with both colleagues and your family or housemates about when you’re in ‘do not disturb’ mode
- offer and ask for help - show your support to colleagues during this difficult time, and similarly, don’t hesitate to reach out when you need help - stay connected and make time for small talk
- look after your mental and physical health - don’t stay glued to your screen all day - take regular breaks and get up to move around. Be kind to yourself and remember we’re all working through extraordinary circumstances
- stay safe and follow government advice - of course, please remember to put your health first and follow the latest advice from the government and the NHS to stay well during the coronavirus crisis
Give yourself some slack. Adapting to home based working takes time. Be patient, and be kind to yourself.
Looking out for others
This is a challenging time. Show interest in the people around you. Show you care, through asking questions about how they're thinking and feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask twice if you are worried. Check in, and continue to check in.
In the absence of face to face contact, it’s more important than ever to find other ways to check-in, to keep contact and to offer support to those around us.
During periods of social isolation, it might feel more difficult than ever for people to look after their mental health.
For some, the mix of COVID-19 related anxiety, social isolation and pre-existing mental health problems could be particularly difficult to cope with.
The current situation may also have taken away some people’s previous coping mechanisms, and their access to face-to-face support.
We can all play a role in helping people whose mental health is at risk. Showing you care, offering support and a listening ear can all go a long way.
As well as offering practical and emotional support we can help others by making them aware of the range of services and support still available to:
- support their mental health
- address the broader range of problems that arise out of the crisis, like housing, money, domestic violence and employment issues
On our website, you can request help for yourself or someone else.
5 steps to helping others
- Be aware - watch for the warning signs that someone might be struggling - this is more challenging during the COVID-19 crisis and we may need to be more pro-active about checking in with others by phone and online
- Ask - trust your instincts and ask the person directly how they are doing and if necessary, ask again “Are you really OK?” - if you feel they may be struggling, let them know that you're worried about them and that you care
- Listen - give them time and space to talk and be helpfully nosy - have a look at our listening tips on this page and remember, during the COVID-19 crisis you may need to do more of this by phone and online
- Build support - explore what help they might need, build a circle of support through family and friends, have a look together at the resources on our website and set goals about what they can do next
- Check in - keep checking in and letting the person know you are there for them - knowing someone cares can make all the difference
Look for the signs
The current situation and uncertainty will lead to heightened levels of anxiety for many people, and potentially in the longer term to a range of mental health problems if people don’t get the early support they need.
How someone might behave
You might see:
- changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
- withdrawal from, or avoidance of friends and family
- a stop in phone or social media contact
- loss of interest in things, including their appearance
- risky behaviour or increased use of alcohol and drugs
- carelessness or lack of interest in work
- evidence of starting or increasing self-harming behaviour
- an increase in coping behaviour, like hand washing
- difficulty making decisions and concentrating
How they may be thinking or feeling
They may experience:
- sadness or anxiety that does not go away
- a loss of enjoyment and interest in people and activities
- a lack of energy, lethargy and tiredness
- extreme mood swings, ongoing irritability or anger
- developing unrealistic or excessive fears and worries
- increased anxiety about their health
- chest pains, shortness of breath
Thoughts of suicide
Being there to listen and to provide emotional support can be a lifesaver.
If you’re worried that someone you care for may be feeling suicidal, it can be really hard to know what to say to them, or how to help. But thinking about suicide does not make it inevitable that someone is going to take their own life.
All of us have the ability to support someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, and to save lives.
Trust your gut instincts. If you are at all concerned that someone is having thoughts of suicide:
- ask them directly
- listen compassionately
- get help if needed
In addition to the general signs of mental health problems listed earlier someone having thoughts of suicide might:
- talk, or post on social media, about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, trapped or having no reason to live, or that they are a burden to others
- show unexpected mood changes, like suddenly being calm after a long period of depression, giving away possessions or making a will, increased risky behaviour or self-harming, or researching suicide online
- have had a major loss or change in their life, an accumulation or build-up of problems before COVID-19, or be facing financial, relationship or housing hardship
Talking about suicide with someone can feel nerve-wracking but the best thing to do is ask directly. “Are you thinking about suicide?”
This will not put ideas in their head and will show them they don’t have to struggle alone with these overwhelming thoughts.
Preventing Suicide in Sussex has more information on how to help someone with thoughts of suicide.
Download the Stay Alive app. This app is a pocket suicide prevention resource, packed full of useful information to help you stay safe.
You can use it if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else who may be considering suicide.
It also includes a safety plan, customisable reasons for living, and a life box where you can store photos that are important to you.
The smallest displays of kindness, like picking up the phone to check in on someone, and the conversation that follows, could make the difference.
When you're listening:
- avoid offering solutions - listening to someone’s problems is not always easy and most of us want to make things better, but this not usually helpful - avoid fixes such as ‘Have you thought of doing this?’ or ‘You should try that’
- ask open questions - these are questions that invite someone to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’, like ‘How have you been feeling?’ or ‘What happened next?’
- offer prompts - encourage someone to talk more by saying things like ‘Tell me more’ or ‘Can you say more about that?’, or by repeating back important words they've said
- give them time - it helps if you let them take the time they need to describe where they are at - make sure you have time to listen
- take their feelings seriously - take whatever they say seriously and without judgment - don’t offer platitudes or minimalise their feelings
- avoid judgements - you might feel shocked or upset by what someone says, but it’s important not to blame the person for how they are feeling - it may have been a big step to talk to you, and to place their trust in you
- it's okay if you don’t have all the answers - you’re a human being too and what you’re hearing might be upsetting or confusing - if you don’t know what to say, be honest and tell them
- give re-assurance - let the person know there is help available and that you care about them
Support to recover from COVID-19
The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) defines distinct phases Covid-19 patients may experience after infection:
- acute Covid-19 - signs and symptoms of Covid‑19 for up to four weeks
- ongoing symptomatic Covid-19 - signs and symptoms of Covid‑19 from four weeks up to 12 weeks
- post Covid-19 syndrome - signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with Covid‑19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. It usually presents with clusters of symptoms, often overlapping, which can fluctuate and change over time and can affect any system in the body. Post‑Covid‑19 syndrome may be considered before 12 weeks while the possibility of an alternative underlying disease is also being assessed
NICE defines 'Long Covid' as follows:
- Long Covid - in addition to the clinical case definitions above, the term 'long Covid' is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute Covid‑19. It includes both ongoing symptomatic Covid‑19 (from four to 12 weeks) and post‑Covid‑19 syndrome (12 weeks or more).
Your Covid Recovery
Your Covid Recovery is an online rehab service from the NHS offering general information and advice on recovering from Covid-19.
The service has been developed by experts representing a wide range of professional bodies and societies alongside people who have experienced Covid. It will support you to restore your physical and emotional well-being.
Guidance on returning to work after Covid
The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has published guidance on returning to work after recovery from Covid:
Advice for parents
The sudden change in children and teenager’s routine, combined with the COVID-19 crisis will be unsettling. Younger children might find it difficult to understand what’s happening and why everyone is so worried. But there are lots of things we can do to look after children’s mental health and wellbeing during this crisis.
Children often adopt the coping strategies they observe in their parents. Parents who grow anxious during a pandemic may end up witnessing their children develop anxiety along with them.
You might find the following helpful for supporting your children:
- advice on talking to your child about the coronavirus from Young Minds
- 10 Minute bursts of exercise for young children from the NHS
- yoga for young children from Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube
- 5 minute work out for Key stage 1 children from The Body Coach on YouTube
- The Body Coach TV on YouTube
Our Healthy Lifestyles team have started work on '5 days to wellbeing' on Facebook, offering messages and activities each day.
How to talk to children about COVID-19
Children may not talk directly about COVID-19 but still check-in with them.
Explain it's normal to feel scared or unsure.
Be honest, speak calmly, use age appropriate language.
Re-assure them that elderly family members are being looked after.
Pay attention to individual worries, these may seem trivial to you, but may feel important to your child.
You don’t need to have all the answers, if you don’t know you can find out together.
Explain how they can help, like with good hygiene and social distancing. Tell them how this can keep them and others stay safe.
Beat Corona anxiety for kids
It's helpful to:
- create a routine and structure
- keep them connected with friends
- reassure them they are safe
- let them talk about their worries
- teach them coping skills
- limit their exposure to news
Mental and emotional wellbeing support for children still at school
If your child is still going to school and you have any concerns about their emotional or mental wellbeing, you’re invited to talk to a Primary Mental Health Worker from the Schools Wellbeing Service.
Telephone consultations are available while schools are closed. Send an email to SWSConsultationLine@brighton-hove.gov.uk or phone 01273 293 481.
You’ll need to give details of your name and phone number and a Primary Mental Health Worker will call you back. While we aim to call back within 2 days, we may have a high demand, so your patience is appreciated.
This is not a crisis number. If you need immediate support:
- contact your GP
- phone 0300 304 0061 to speak to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) duty care
- go directly to A&E
For other sources of support, please visit Find Get Give – mental health and wellbeing services for young people, parents and carers.
Free family learning courses
Family learning is a council-funded service providing local parents with the chance to learn new skills for the benefit of the whole family.
We're currently running free family wellbeing courses online, including:
- supporting a child with anxiety
- supporting a teenager with anxiety
- mindfulness for parents and carers
...and many more.
We give priority booking to parents with low or no qualifications, but we can offer places to other local parents where we have space.
To find out more about courses, dates, times and how to sign up, visit our family learning online classroom.
Department of Education coronavirus helpline
There is a helpline to answer questions about coronavirus related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline in the following ways (open Monday to Friday - 8am to 6pm):
- phone 0800 046 8687
- send an email to DfE.email@example.com
Support and advice for young people
Young people can use:
- Young Minds Crisis Messenger - crisis text support for under 25s, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - text YM to 85258
- Papyrus Hopeline - support and advice for young people - phone 0800 068 4141 between 9am and 10pm Monday to Friday, and 2pm and 10pm on weekends
- The Mix - advice and support for under 25s - phone 0808 808 4994 between 4pm and 11pm
- Childline - phone 0800 11 11 between 9am and midnight or use Childine's online 1-2-1 chat
- Kooth provides free online counselling for young people over 11 years old
- YMCA offers digital wellbeing resources
And if you're worried about a young person, you can use Young Minds Parent Line which provides advice for parents and carers worried about a young person. To get in touch, phone 0808 802 5544 between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday.
Advice for pregnant women and new mums
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has released official guidelines to outline information for pregnant women and new mums surrounding the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19):
Advice for unpaid carers or if you’re looking after someone
Are you looking after someone, without being paid, who due to their health condition, disability, substance misuse, or mental ill health, needs regular practical, personal, physical or emotional support?
If so, then we’d consider you to be an unpaid carer.
Caring for someone while trying to maintain a life of your own can be challenging as well as rewarding. We understand the importance of the role you’re providing and want to support you.
Around 1 in 6 people living in Brighton & Hove provide regular unpaid support to family or friends who need help. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is estimated that 1 in 3 people nationally are providing essential care and support.
Carers can be of any age, including children, adults and older people.
What to do if you think you or someone you care for may have COVID-19
If you’re worried that you or someone you look after may be at risk, NHS 111 can offer direct guidance and they have set up online coronavirus help.
Call 111 if the symptoms of the person you care for become severe and let them know you’re a carer.
Local support for carers
As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's important to know what support is available locally to you as a carer and for those you look after.
The Carers Hub is a local service created for all unpaid carers.
They provide a range of services including information, advice, peer support, the carers card (a discount card which entitles you to cheaper travel, shopping and more), and specialist assessments which can potentially lead to accessing respite options or carers’ personal budgets.
Please contact them and find out how they can support you:
- Call on 01273 977 000 (Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm)
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit the Carers Hub website
Additional support for young carers
If you’re under 18 years old and providing regular care to another child or adult, please contact the Young Carers Project, as they have a range of specialist support for you – no one should be caring alone.
- Watch NHS England’s Out of the Woods, a story about the importance of identifying young carers, in their own words
- Watch a message for the ‘invisible army’ of children and young people who are caring from Professor Saul Becker, international expert on young carers.
Backup care in an emergency
Do you have a backup, contingency or emergency plan for if you’re unable to provide care?
Locally we have a carers emergency backup scheme, which supports carers to develop contingency plans. Additionally there is national guidance from Carers UK, and from the Government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jointly combines group messaging and to-do lists with other useful features including medication lists, calendars and more, enabling you to communicate and coordinate with those with whom you may be sharing caring responsibilities. The Brighton & Hove code is BHCC_JT75.
Balancing caring with work
Our local access code, which you will need to set up an account, is #EFC1769.
Relate are the UK’s largest provider of relationship support.
Many of Relate’s services including relationship counselling, individual counselling and sex therapy are now available via webcam. Call 0300 003 0396 to book an appointment. You can also access telephone counselling via the same number and you can access live chat allowing you to talk to a trained counsellor via instant messaging.
If you’re being abused or think you could be, make sure you get support from Relate to stay safe.
- Read 7 tips on being a good partner during isolation from VeryWellMind.
Staying in can help save lives, but for some people, home doesn't feel safe.
If you have been affected by domestic or sexual abuse and violence you can talk to someone and get support from:
- The Portal
- National Domestic Violence 24hr helpline 0808 2000 247
- In an emergency call 999
- Guidance from Safe Lives
- Safety planning from Women’s aid
- Sussex Police
- Government guidance on Refuge response
- Guidance about surviving economic abuse
- Guidance about child contact arrangements
- Guidance for professionals - multi-agency forums (including MARAC)
Domestic violence and abuse
This is a worrying time for us all, but particularly for adults and children living with domestic violence, or who have experienced stalking or sexual abuse. Risks will be heightened and you may be feeling that you are trapped or that your mental health is suffering as a result of being at home more. Or you may be worried about your own behaviour towards a partner or family member and need support to address this.
At home shouldn’t mean at risk. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse don’t suffer in silence. Police response and support services remain available to help and advise you.
If you have been affected by domestic or sexual abuse and violence you can talk to someone and get support from:
- The Portal freephone 0300 323 9985
- National Domestic Abuse 24hr helpline freephone 0808 2000 247
- In an emergency call 999
If it is not safe for you to speak you can use the Silent Solution system - call 999, and if the operator hears no response, you will be directed to press ‘55’ if you need help. The conversation will then continue in a way that allows the caller to communicate by using yes/no to answer questions.
The Respect Phoneline is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women who are harming their partners and families.
- Call 0808 802 4040
Further advice and support options relating to domestic violence and abuse.
- Guidance from Safe Lives
- Safety planning from Women’s aid
- Guidance about surviving economic abuse
- Guidance about child contact arrangements
Help with alcohol or drug use
This is a stressful time for everyone - usual routines have changed for many of us and we may have lost structure in our day, which can make it easier to develop unhealthy habits.
It's important to keep an eye on our alcohol consumption. To keep health risks to a low level, men and women should not exceed 14 units a week, spread over 3 days or more. If you're pregnant or under 18, the safest advice is not to drink anything. It's easy to check your consumption of alcohol units online.
Alcohol can have a negative impact on various aspects of our life such as sleep, mental health, weight, sex, health, parenting and so much more. Now is a good time to be more conscious of how much you’re drinking.
If you're worried you may be drinking too much, this quick quiz from Alcohol Change may help you.
Help to quit smoking
In light of the spread of Covid-19, it's even more important than usual for people who smoke to quit. If you smoke, you're less protected against the virus and at greater risk of:
- acute respiratory infections
- infections lasting longer
- infections being more serious than they would be for someone who does not smoke.
In fact, evidence tells us that smokers who get Covid-19 are 14 times more likely to suffer from a serious respiratory infection than non-smokers.
Referrals for support
The council’s Health Trainers are continuing to offer behavioural support to smokers (including pregnant smokers) via telephone sessions. Medication to help you stop smoking will continue to be available.
To make a referral for yourself or someone else, please complete our online referral form. We aim to respond to all general enquiries within three working days and all referral enquiries within 10 working days.
Get further inspiration and resources to help you quit smoking from Today is the Day.
Support for those affected by bereavement
These resources cover some of the different situations and emotions bereaved people may have to deal with.
Cruse Bereavement Care have a particularly helpful guide to dealing with bereavement and grief during coronavirus.
Information for employers - supporting an employee through bereavement
Employers should consider that everyone deals with death differently, and each employee’s needs will be different. Supporting an employee can help them feel valued and reduce their stress or anxiety.
When an employee tells you about a death
It’s good practice to:
- offer your condolences
- assure them they don't need to work if they don't want to, and make it clear that work should come second to looking after their wellbeing
- ask how they’d like to keep in touch
- ask if there’s any important work they need someone else to cover, if appropriate.
If someone is upset they might not be able to talk for long, or someone else might contact you on their behalf. If this happens, it can help to follow up with an email, or call them a few days later.
Communicating in a calm, empathetic way can help employees feel supported, valued, and help ease their anxiety about work.
Keeping in touch while an employee is off
In the first few days after a death it’s important to communicate with the employee.
When you get in touch, it’s good practice to ask:
- how they are
- how they’d like to be in contact while they’re off, for example by phone or email, and how often
- if they want you to let others know about the death
- if they want to be contacted by others from work, for example to offer their support or condolences
- if they need any information or support from you, and signpost to any support that’s available to them
- if they’ve thought about returning to work, if appropriate.
Be careful not to pressure them into making any decisions before they’re ready.
Suicide prevention and support
- Mental Health Rapid Response Service - Brighton & Hove
- NHS - Help for suicidal thoughts
- Samaritans - support groups for people bereaved by suicide
- Community Roots - suicide prevention support
- Preventing Suicide in Sussex
- Download the Stay Alive app
- Every Life Matters