Those who are struggling with their mental health over the Christmas period need to know support is just a phone call away, Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister Eluned Morgan has said after meeting with Samaritans Wales.
Samaritans Cymru are one of the mental health charities the Welsh Government have worked with to provide low level mental health support, including stress and anxiety, during the COVID pandemic.
Latest research from the helpline shows that being separated from family and loved ones over the Christmas period is one of the biggest concerns facing callers, whilst a quarter of 1,400 callers over the last three months said they were concerned about their wellbeing over Christmas and the winter period.
Yesterday (17 December) Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister Eluned Morgan met with Samaritans Executive Director for Wales Sarah Stone and volunteers from the helpline, where they discussed the impact of COVID on the service, the worries and concerns many people are feeling, and the most appropriate way support can be provided to those in need.
The Welsh Government spends more on mental health - more than £700m - than on any other aspect of the NHS. This year, additional funding of nearly £10million has been put into mental health support directly in response to the impact of the pandemic. This has focused on providing a range of easy to access support, both online and over the telephone, so those seeking help don’t need a doctor’s referral.
This includes the CALL mental health helpline and the free SilverCloud online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy support, as well as more support in schools, colleges and universities. The need for this is shown by the fact more than 3,500 people have signed up to SilverCloud since its launch in September.
Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said:
Improving access to support for low level mental health issues is a priority for us and is imperative to provide help to those who need it. We know that fears for job losses or concern for loved ones are likely to increase calls on our mental health services, and that is why we are responding with increased action and support with additional investment of tens of millions of pounds into mental health services.
However, this is not a simple solution and we are working with partners across Wales and all government departments to tackle this issue.
It was deeply humbling talking to Samaritans Wales about how they have adapted to cope with the pandemic and managed to reach more than a million people in the space of just six months.
Christmas can be a difficult period for many people and going through it during a pandemic can make it even harder, so we want people to know support and a listening ear is always there for those who need it.
Samaritans Executive Director for Wales Sarah Stone said:
It has been an unprecedented year with the pandemic affecting so many people’s health and wellbeing. We need to be there now more than ever for those in distress.
We know that people struggle more at Christmas, as it’s a time when loneliness can really hit home. Regardless of what happens with COVID restrictions, we want people to know that confidential support is available 24/7, and that we are there for everyone.