NHS staff are being offered free therapy through several initiatives designed to help key workers cope during the pandemic
Through the coronavirus crisis, NHS staff are working incredibly hard to attend to patients’ physical and mental health. But what happens to their own health?
Alongside efforts being made to get frontline workers the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need, a number of new initiatives have stepped in to support the mental health of NHS staff.
Therapist-matching website Welldoing.org has listed any counsellors and psychotherapists registered on its site that are offering free services for frontline NHS workers. So far, some 250 therapists have signed up.
Elsewhere, Duty to Care is a new initiative supporting NHS staff by offering free mental health and wellbeing facilities. Founded last month by Harriet Hunt, a communications executive, with the help of Sadie Reid, founder of wellbeing magazine Hip and Healthy, Duty to Care provides access to a directory of vetted practitioners offering services to frontline healthcare workers.
Sessions are free for the NHS staff accessing them, and a £40-per-session fee for the therapist is covered by donations made to Duty to Care’s Just Giving page.
So far Duty to Care has been accessed by 280 NHS workers in various healthcare roles across the UK. Initial feedback has been positive, Hunt said: “Many have told us they’re applying the coping mechanisms they’ve been taught to help them manage anxiety at work and home.”
As for the practitioners, there are currently 30 delivering services via the platform, including CBT therapists, psychotherapists, mindfulness teachers, meditation experts, breath-work experts, nutritional therapists, personal trainers and yoga teachers. A further 500 practitioners have applied to do likewise.
“I was lying in bed one Saturday, thinking my biggest fear is not just how my husband [a doctor] and all his colleagues and NHS workers survive,” Hunt told Positive News. “It was that this is going to be such a severe and drawn out period of high pressure for them.”
The NHS workers have made it their life duty to care about us, and it’s our duty to care about them
There are official channels for NHS professionals to seek mental health support, such as the British Medical Association’s wellbeing services and the NHS Practitioners’ Health Scheme. Hunt’s conversations with them, she says, show “there is a big desire for them to offer more”.
Another initiative is Frontline19, set up by a group of mental health professionals, which matches frontline healthcare workers seeking support with psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors offering free services.
So far, around 2,000 therapists have offered pro bono services for between one and five clients via Frontline 19. The service has found help for workers including doctors, nurses and paramedics and care home staff.
“Trauma generally kicks in as the activating event subsides, so we are gathering resources to be able to offer long-term support as we are getting busier each day,” said co-founder Sam Cotton.
Frontline19 is raising money via Go Fund Me to cover administrative costs in order to offer help more quickly to people in need of support.
Meanwhile, Positive News is also crowdfunding to support NHS staff’s mental health, by supplying copies of Positive News magazine to frontline healthcare workers who request them.
Duty to Care, which is awaiting charitable status, has so far raised more than £18,000 of its £25,000 target via its JustGiving page. “We’re trying to get ourselves in the strongest position possible, so that we can provide instant support and begin an unwavering means of helping our NHS workers,” said Hunt.
She expects Duty to Care to be around beyond the pandemic. “The NHS workers have made it their life duty to care about us, and it’s our duty to care about them,” she said.
Main image: Engin Akyurt