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Mental Health Awareness Week – 9th to 15th May 2022

This year, the Mental Health Foundation has chosen loneliness as the theme of mental health awareness week.

“Millions of us experience loneliness from time to time. We know that some people are at higher risk of experiencing loneliness and the evidence shows the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems.”

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation

Not only does feeling lonely place our mental health at risk but experiencing poor mental health can lead to loneliness.

What is loneliness?

We often think about loneliness as being linked to being alone or isolated, however this doesn’t automatically lead to the feeling of loneliness, in fact often we may choose to be in solitude for our wellbeing. The feeling of loneliness is more complex and relates to lack of social connection.

A key element to the survival of the human race was our ability to act together as a social species. Loneliness developed as a warning sign that we may be socially disconnected and therefore our survival at risk. Just as the sense of thirst lets us know we should hydrate; loneliness is designed to encourage us to seek connection. As we are wired for connection there can even be negative effects on our physical health from prolonged loneliness, such as a weakened immune system.

We all feel lonely sometimes, but when it starts to become a regular or overwhelming feeling it may be time to take action or seek support.

Signs of loneliness

Loneliness looks different for everyone, and it might not always be easy to spot but signs can include:

    • Not having many close friends or avoiding people
    • Finding it difficult to make deep connections to others
    • Feeling isolated even when around people
    • Having low self-esteem or feeling you don’t have anything interesting to say to people
    • A tendency to focus spare time on buying ‘things’ rather than on activities
    • Regularly binge-watching TV boxsets
    • Using mechanisms such as food, alcohol or drugs to avoid feeling isolated
    • Spending lots of time scrolling on social media without interacting with anyone

What leads to loneliness?

Loneliness can build up over time and we may not always notice our social connections have started to dwindle. The pandemic had a big impact on us feeling lonely and isolated. A 2021 Mind survey found that in the South West, 52% of adults and 53% of young people were worried about seeing and being near people. Whilst restrictions have lifted, it is inevitable that two years of social distancing has played a large part in some of us finding it hard to be around people.

Loneliness can also be triggered by a change in circumstances, such as the loss of a relationship or friendship, a bereavement, changing jobs or moving to a new area.

What can we do to feel less lonely?

 There are lots of things we can do to improve feelings of loneliness, below are some suggestions. If you have been feeling lonely for a while, take small steps to begin with so as not to overwhelm yourself.

    • Reconnect with friends and family and work on improving the feeling of connection between you. If you worry that you don’t have enough in common to connect with your friends, try to focus on your similarities rather than your differences.
    • Think about what opportunities you might have to meet new people.
    • Often just being open with a friend about how you’re doing can help you feel connected. Focus on quality of friendships and remember it can take time to build the trust so be patient.
    • Find small ways to connect to people on a day-to-day basis, even if it is just taking time to say hello to a cashier in the shop or smile and make eye contact with people (if it feels safe to do so). Being present when you are out can help you notice those small opportunities for connection.
    • Take up new hobbies or re-establish old ones. Find out if there are community interest groups near you so you can meet people with similar hobbies.
    • If you have time, look for volunteering opportunities in your community. There are many wellbeing benefits associated with volunteering, including increasing your confidence, giving you a sense of purpose, and learning new skills.
    • Get outside and connect to nature or spend time with animals can also lead to feelings of connection.

What can we do at work to manage loneliness?

 The pandemic has changed the workplace for many of us, so it is important we take time to understand which elements of connection we might be missing and act to remedy this where possible. This might include:

    • When hybrid working, make the days you are in the office focused on meeting and connecting with colleagues and save the detailed solo work for when you are at home. If you are used to working remotely, spending time catching up with colleagues may feel unproductive by comparison, so remember that team connection is important too and put it on the to-do list.
    • Keep in mind that everyone connects differently, the extroverts among us may enjoy larger team gatherings to help feel energised and connected, whereas those of us who are more introverted may gain connection from smaller groups or one-to-one conversations.
    • If you are a remote worker, consider if there is a colleague who you can buddy up with and check in with each other regularly, or even just having a video call open whilst you both work separately can help feel like there’s someone with you.
    • Find out if your workplace has a mentoring scheme and sign up to either be a mentor to others, or a mentee.
    • Reconnect with the values of your team or wider organisation. Feeling part of a shared purpose can help us feel more connected to others.
    • Consider talking to your manager if you are feeling distanced from your team, they may be able to help you find a way of working that suits you better.

What can we do as managers in the workplace?

 It can be a challenge to keep up with how your team are doing when the workplace is changing. This week might be a good opportunity to consider if anyone might need your time or support. Some suggested ways to take care of you team are:

    • Check in with each team member at your next 1-2-1 and ask if they are experiencing feelings of loneliness. If so, help them think about ways to address this.
    • Do you know the preferences for your team members in terms of how they best connect to people, such as whether they are introverted or extroverted? Try to provide a mix of different opportunities ranging from small groups to large groups and think about what space is available in the workplace to facilitate this.
    • Make sure the values and purpose of the team or organisation are clearly communicated, and let people know how they as an individual contribute to that.
    • Encourage people to take time for their wellbeing during the workday and let them know what options are open to them within your organisation. Remind them of any confidential support available too, such as via your EAP provider.
    • Encourage your team to complete a personal Wellbeing Action Plan and review it at your 1-2-1’s. The wellbeing plan can help us identify what keeps us well at work and what causes us to become unwell. Find the guide and template on Mind’s website.
    • Take a look at the ‘tea break check-ins’ detailed below and consider having this posted in the break area as a reminder.

Mental health is for life not just for awareness week!

Awareness days have proven successful over recent years in helping encourage people to talk about their mental health and seek support, but we need to look after our mental health all year round too.

Perhaps you can use this week to take stock of how you are doing with your mental health and where you can make sustainable changes in your life to take care of yourself on an ongoing basis?

When making changes to our lifestyle it’s best to start small and then build it up when it feels like a habit. Even just doing something for a couple of minutes a day is better than not at all, and when you are doing it consistently, you can build it up to 5 minutes, 10 minutes etc. It can also be most effective to anchor the change to something you already do.

Here’s one small change you can make today that can make a difference:

Tea Break Check-ins

Every time you are making a drink, waiting for the kettle to boil or queuing in the coffee shop, spend a couple of minutes to check in with yourself. Start with taking a few deep breaths and then ask yourself:

    1. How am I feeling?
    2. Do I feel connected to others?
    3. What one small thing can I do for myself today to support my wellbeing?

Why not download our prompt poster today and print it for your kitchen at home or your break area at work?



How Wiltshire Mind can help

Our support is available for anyone based in the Wiltshire area.

    • Peer Support Groups – Attending one of our weekly support groups can provide a safe space for you to talk about how you’re feeling and connect with others who may have similar experiences. Click the link to find out when and where they are held.
    • Volunteer – as mentioned, there are many benefits to volunteering in your community, and we would love to hear from you if you have time to support us. Opportunities include helping our facilitators to run the weekly support groups or joining our fundraising team to help raise much needed funds for the charity. Take a look at our volunteering page here to find out more.
    • Counselling – our one-to-one counselling is available for adults and also young people aged 11+. This is available either in person or via Zoom. As a low-cost counselling provider, we do have a waiting list for this service but please get in contact if you would like to find out more. You can see more information about adult counselling here and young people’s counselling here.

Donate to help us deliver our services

Each month, we aim to deliver around 250 counselling sessions, and hold 28 support groups but to do so, we need to raise £465 per day. We rely on the generosity of people and businesses in our community to achieve this. If you would like to donate to help us be there for people facing loneliness and experiencing mental health problems visit our Just Giving page.

Other resources that may be useful

Mind’s Side by Side community provides an online platform where you can connect to others who understand what you are going through. It is available to everyone 24/7.

The Befriending network directory can help you find organisations near you who provide a befriending service.

Meetup is a website and app to find local events and meetings for a variety of interest groups.

Mental health support – please help today

Last year, across Wiltshire, we held just over 1000 counselling sessions for children, young people and adults to support them with their mental health. This year, the demand is even greater.

There are an estimated 67,000 people struggling with a common mental health problem in our county. No one organisation or agency can meet this growing demand singularly, but together we can be there for everyone needing to access support.

Wiltshire Mind is an independent charity. We provide counselling and also offer peer support groups in the main towns countywide. Our services are lifelines to many, and offer a safe and confidential space to talk and share experiences.

 “Counselling has helped me realise that I am worthy, strong and deserve the same love, care and respect that I give others”. (Recent quote from an adult service user)

Sadly, the cost of providing services is increasing, yet the funding available for charities like our is in decline. We are facing an uncertain future if we cannot raise the funds to continue our work locally.

Government health and social care budgets prevent charities like ours being funded properly, and so the waiting list for support increases, and less people get the help they need.

We need to raise £465 a day.

Help us please if you can.

A £10 donation helps provide art materials for example for use in therapeutic support.

A £30 donation will fund an adult counselling session.

A £45 donation will fund a children or young person’s counselling session

A £75 donation will fund one of our peer support group meetings locally.

Your donation makes a huge difference to those needing support locally.

Our services are available to anyone living in Wiltshire, and you can find out more at www.wiltshiremind.co.uk

To make a donation now, please visit our Just Giving Page. Thank you.

If you, your friends or colleagues would like to help us fundraise, contact us today by email: fundraising@wiltshiremind.co.uk

End of an era for Wiltshire Mind Charity Shop

On Thursday the 10th March, the Wiltshire Mind Charity Shop in Melksham closes its doors for the last time.

Over the last couple of years, the charity shop, which sells second hand clothes and bric-a-brac has struggled to cover its costs. The effects of the pandemic, reducing numbers of customers on the high street and increasing utility costs has meant the charity has had to make the difficult decision to close its shop in Melksham.

The Trustees and Management of the local charity are extremely grateful to the shop staff, volunteers and customers who have given their time and energies into trying to raise income through the local community.

The charity, like many, is seeing an increase in demand for its mental health support services such as counselling and local support groups, but with declining income. The charity shop closure does not affect the services of the charity, which continue to operate across Wiltshire for any one in our community who needs help with their mental health.

Wiltshire Mind provides counselling, local support groups and mental health training, and more information can be found on the website at www.wiltshiremind.co.uk.

If you’d like to support Wiltshire Mind, please visit the Just-Giving page: Wiltshire Mind – JustGiving

If you’d like to visit the shop and grab a bargain before they close, the shop is open Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th March 9am-4pm.

Minding the gap; charitable trust enables trauma support for people across Wiltshire

Traumatic events can have a massive effect on our mental health. Support for those struggling with trauma is often hard to access, and there is a lack of awareness around the subject.

Local mental health charity Wiltshire Mind is trialling a new trauma counselling service. Thanks to the Sarah Jayne Charitable Trust who are funding this service, those experiencing trauma can gain access to help through the charity. Offering between 16 and 24 sessions, the counselling is held weekly at Wiltshire Mind’s premises in Melksham. 

Paul Mills, CEO at Wiltshire Mind explains why the service is so important: “There is already a proven demand for this service locally, and with more and more pressure on the NHS, this will only grow.  We would like to thank the Sarah Jayne Charitable Trust for this backing, which will help the local community significantly.”

“Helping to establish a new service with Wiltshire Mind is really poignant. The Sarah Jayne Charitable Trust is also relatively new and was set up so we could make a difference in our community. Wiltshire Mind have identified a real need for mental health support as a direct result of trauma and we’re humbled that we could help them make it happen.”

Georgina Syrett, SJCT Trustee

The Sarah Jayne Trust are also funding online videos which raise awareness and help start conversations about trauma, and the help needed.

“We’re acutely aware that the pandemic has caused a huge demand for mental health services whilst fundraising opportunities have decreased. Many people don’t realise that local Mind branches are completely self-funded, so we’re delighted to be able to support them at such a challenging time,”

Paul Verwoert, SJCT Trustee

The Trust’s main corporate sponsor Hartsfield Financial Services are also donating much-needed IT equipment such as desktops and screens to support other volunteer counsellors at Wiltshire Mind. 

Wiltshire Mind is a local, independent charity, and their vision is of a society that promotes and protects good mental health for all, and that treats people with experience of mental distress fairly, positively, and with respect.

To provide mental health services locally, Wiltshire Mind relies on the generous work of supporters and fundraisers to raise much needed funds. To provide access and help, they need to raise £465 a day to provide their service across Wiltshire.

If you would like to donate, please visit Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/wiltshire-mind. Thank you.

Supporting your mental health over the Christmas period

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many of us. This might trigger problems with our mental health, or worsen existing difficulties. Coupled with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, it is important to take care of ourselves and our loved ones over this festive period.

Supporting others

If you are worried about the mental health of people in your life, it can be really helpful to just start an open conversation with them.

Christmas can mean different things to different people and their experience may change each year. For many of us, Christmas can trigger feelings such as loneliness, stress or worry about money, and often someone may experience seemingly opposing emotions at the same time. It is important not to make assumptions about how someone is feeling, but rather ask them how they’re feeling about Christmas this year and give them space to share their feelings and listen without judgment, and let them know it’s common to find things hard at this time of year.

If someone is struggling, try to avoid ‘cheering them up’. People feel most supported when they feel heard and that their feelings have been understood rather than needing someone to try and  change them. Phrases like “Christmas is supposed to be a happy time”, “Other people have it worse”, “Cheer up, it’ll be fine” can feel dismissive and minimise their feelings. Sometimes we use these phrases because we are feeling uncomfortable, but if you can instead sit with that and just be alongside that person in whatever they are feeling, this an can be really helpful.

We may find that when we first ask how someone is, they just say they’re ‘fine’. It can be really helpful to ask them for a second time how they are. We often treat ‘how are you?’ as a general greeting, but asking a second time ‘how are you really doing?’ shows you genuinely do want to know. If they still aren’t keen to share how they are, respect that decision and just let them know you are happy to listen if they do want to talk at any time. If you find some things at Christmas hard, it can be useful to share that with them to help normalise this and let them know they aren’t alone in their feelings.

If you notice that someone is feeling a lot of stress at this time of year, you may want to try and help them. In this case, it is important to understand what each person might need rather than making too many assumptions. Try having an open conversation about what elements of Christmas they are feeling stressed about, and what might be helpful for them. This might include setting spending limits on presents, offering to help with childcare, understanding that people who have problems with eating might need support around mealtimes and so on.

Coping with COVID anxiety

Many of us are feeling lots of different emotions about the pandemic and we may be having different experiences from our loved ones. It is important to remember there is no ‘right’ way to respond to a pandemic and all experiences are valid. Try to understand how others are thinking and feeling, and be respectful of that. For those you are spending time with over Christmas, it may be useful to check in with how they are feeling about COVID and what safety measures they may need to feel comfortable.

Remember to take care of yourself and notice what things in particular lead you to feel stressed or anxious about COVID. For example, it maybe useful to limit your time on social media or watching the news so that you aren’t overwhelmed. Try to focus on the things you can control rather than worrying about the things you can’t. If possible, try to find moments of joy and fun to help provide some respite from the difficult emotions you may also be feeling.

Taking care of our own mental health

Christmas can feel like a very busy time for many of us, but it is important to try and find time to take care of our wellbeing too.

We recommend using the ‘Five ways to Wellbeing’ as a prompt. This includes:

  • Connecting – spending time with people in a way that feels connecting and energising for you.
  • Be Active – take time to be active, even if just a short walk each day to get some fresh air. During the winter, it is especially important to get outside in the daylight.
  • Take Notice – try to be mindful and focus on the current moment rather than worrying about the past or future. Even just a few minutes of focusing on your breathing can help.
  • Learn – spend some time learning something new, even just listening to a short podcast can help keep your mind active.
  • Give – helping others can help give you a sense of purpose. This might include support a friend, volunteering in your community or just being kind to others when you are doing your Christmas shopping.

Remember to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding as you treat others. Be patient with yourself and others, and know that this time of year can be challenging for many of us, especially during a pandemic. Be mindful of what you need and try to communicate this to the people around you, including setting any relevant boundaries such as topics you don’t want to talk about or events you don’t wish to attend. Consider talking to a friend or loved one about how you are feeling.

For information about what to do in a mental health crisis, or for details of other organisations who provide immediate support, please visit our Information and Support page.

Whilst you’re here

Wiltshire Mind is an independent charity and we receive most of our funding from the community. We know the country is in a mental health crisis, and we urgently need to raise funds so that we can continue to provide support to the people who need us. To make a donation, not matter how small, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/wiltshire-mind.

Help raise funds for better mental health in Wiltshire

Every week 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem. In Wiltshire alone, there are around 68,000 people experiencing some form of mental health disorder. These statistics are eye-watering.

Wiltshire Mind provides support to the many people locally who experience mental health problems or emotional distress. We provide low-cost counselling for adults, and free counselling for children and young people aged 11+. We also run peer support groups across Wiltshire, offering a safe a confidential space to share experiences and gain support and confidence. Last year, we delivered over 1400 counselling sessions, 63 support group sessions, in total helping 238 people in our county towards better mental health.

As a local charity we receive all of our funding from our community. We are not commissioned, so we don’t receive any statutory funding. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and fundraisers, we are able to offer accessible support for everybody. This year, our community raised £79,000 towards the cost of providing these mental health services.

Covid-19 has had a dramatic effect on the demand for our services these past 18 months. We have seen an increase in the need for support, and waiting lists have grown across all providers. To meet this growing demand, we need to raise £465 a day.

If you or your business are planning a fundraising event, thinking about a regular donation or planning on having a dedicated charity of the year, please do think of Wiltshire Mind. From corporate golf days to local cycle relays, cake and bake sales to raffles, live music events to sports competitions or even Christmas Jumper days, there are so many fun ways to raise much needed funds for mental health support locally. Check out our social media posts too for more ideas.

Why not email us today at fundraising@wiltshiremind.co.uk and find out a bit more about how you or your company can help make a difference in this mental health crisis. Every pound raised goes towards providing better mental health for our community.

Nobody should face a mental health problem alone. We need your help so we can be there.

If you’d like to donate to Wiltshire Mind, visit our Just-Giving page today. https://www.justgiving.com/wiltshire-mind.

Thank you.

We are recruiting for an Operations Manager, fixed-term contract (6 months)

We have an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic and experienced Operations Project Manager to join our team at Wiltshire Mind, based in Melksham, Wiltshire. The successful candidate will join us on a fixed term 6-month basis working 37 hours a week.

Wiltshire Mind is an independent charity supporting people in Wiltshire who are experiencing mental health problems or emotional distress. Our services are accessible for everybody in our community, and we provide one-to-one counselling support for people who are experiencing mental health problems including adults and Children and Young People from 11+. We also run peer support groups across the county.

We are seeking an organised, highly motivated Operations Project Manager with experience in HR, H&S and Governance, to help design and implement appropriate and effective processes in our charity. We have recently been awarded a quality accreditation and want to continue to drive change and future-proof our ‘business as usual’ activities. The ability to work efficiently as part of a small team, influencing and implementing change, and working to our charity values will be key attributes.

Previous experience in operational work is essential, as is a passion for the work of our charity in supporting people who are experiencing mental health problems.

If this sounds like you and you want to make a difference to our community and help towards better mental health in Wiltshire – contact us today by emailing us with a covering email and your CV to office@wiltshiremind.co.uk. You should include a personal statement in your email as to your suitability for the role, based on the job description. This application is open until 15 November, and a DBS check will be carried out for the successful applicant.

Thank you for your interest in Wiltshire Mind.

We are recruiting for a Support Group Facilitator

We have an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic and experienced Support Group Facilitator to join our team at Wiltshire Mind, based in Melksham, Wiltshire. The successful candidate will join us on a permanent basis working 9.5 hours a week over 3 days, of which the days can be flexible and will be discussed as a part of the interview process.  The role is made of face-to-face groups in Trowbridge and Melksham and an online Evening Group.  The successful candidate will also be expected to attend the office, once a week in order to complete administration tasks and build relationships with the wider team.

If this sounds like you and you want to make a difference to our community and help towards better mental health in Wiltshire – download the details and application form below.

Annual General Meeting 2021

Dear Members and Friends of Wiltshire Mind,

Notice is given that the 2021 Annual General Meeting of Wiltshire Mind will be held:

Date: Wednesday 10th November 2021

Time: 10.00-11.00am

Venue: St James Centre, Devizes

Register: By emailing office@wiltshiremind.co.uk (Please put ‘AGM’) as the email subject. (No entry on the day at the door without pre-registration.)

or call 01225 706532 Monday to Friday 9am-1pm.

All interested parties most welcome. There are limited spaces at the venue due to social distancing restrictions.

We hope you can join us at our AGM, where you can hear about our years work. We remained operational through the pandemic, thanks to our members, funders and supporters.

We will also receive the accounts for 2020-2021, and appoint our Independent Examiner. Appointment of Trustees will also be undertaken.

5 ways to get outside, and into nature this summer

Izzy Fry, age 15

@izzyfryphotography 

Being out in nature and greenspaces is scientifically proven to be beneficial for both our physical and mental health.

Being out in the ‘wild’ or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear and stress and increases happy feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to you physical wellbeing, reducing heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.

So why don’t you get outside and connect with nature – it will be good for your physical and mental health! Here are my top 5 ideas to get you outside in nature this summer!

MAKE A SOLITARY BEE HOUSE – I absolutely love making these bee hotels and all you need is a slice of wood and a drill! Drill multiple holes into the slice of wood (but be careful you don’t go the whole way through!) Solitary bees will use these holes to lay their eggs in – you will know when one has made it it’s home as it cover up the front!

STARGAZING – sleeping out under the stars is a great experience! Grab a blanket, find a cosy spot to lie down in and look up! The longer you gaze the more stars you’ll discover – you can use the app star walk to find the names of the stars your sleeping underneath!

WILD SWIMMING – wild swimming is such a fun way to connect with nature and be outside! Find a little river or lake (make sure you have permission) and go for a paddle or swim! There are so many benefits of the cold water – it boosts brain power, relives stress and its very meditative!

PLANT A WILDFLOWER MEADOW – wildflowers benefit lots of wildlife from bees and butterflies to mammals and birds; and they are also fun to make for us! Choose a suitable area in your garden – it needs to be somewhere open and sunny. Choose your wildflower seeds, some good mixes can include poppies, cowslips and ox-eye daisies (you can harvest the seeds yourself or buy a mix online!) Dig or rake the soil and sprinkle the seeds, water every few days and watch the flowers grow!

PHOTOGRAPHY – get outside with a camera or even a phone and photograph nature. From bees on flowers and birds on feeders to the tops of trees and landscapes. Photography is a great way to capture the beauty of nature and wildlife.