‘No issue is too big or too small’ – The mental health Recovery Café keeping Londoners afloat

By Tara Fair
April 29 2020, 20.25

Wandsworth’s Recovery Café mental health service has drastically restructured in order to keep its doors open through lockdown.

The Hestia Recovery Café in Wandsworth was asked by the NHS to continue providing support for those experiencing a mental health crisis to reduce strain on A&E and other services.

Staff have set up a telephone-based service and are offering face-to-face support where essential whilst taking care to conform with social distancing guidelines.

Hestia director of operations Gayle Lowery-Jones said: “We really encourage people to stay connected, if they’ve got people to ring that’s great and if they don’t we are here for them – it’s important that people don’t feel like their issue is too big or too small to talk to someone about.

“It’s not a weakness, it’s an absolute strength to recognise limitations and to ask for help.”

Both over the phone and in person, staff work by listening, offering advice, signposting to relevant services and helping those in need to develop self-management techniques.

Ms Lowery-Jones explained people seem to be reaching crisis faster during lockdown due to previous stress being compounded by factors such as social isolation, financial concerns and grief.

Whether or not people experience bereavement themselves, the high number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK creates a distressing environment which many find difficult navigate.

With so much going on, people may feel that their problems pale in comparison to others and resist reaching out as a result, but this would be a mistake.

Urging people to get in contact as early as possible, Ms Lowery-Jones added: “If someone doesn’t have the chance to bounce a conversation off somebody else it can really weigh on their mind and become much more extreme.”

Even mild stress over long periods of time can develop into serious long-term mental health problems, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

To keep customers and staff safe, the Recovery Café team have successfully implemented a string of safety measures.

Although it has been challenging, staff have secured a supply of PPE and upon arrival customers are screened on their health and the health of their household.

Social distancing is also strictly adhered to once inside the building and the usual refreshments in the kitchen have been suspended.

Fresh guidance on mental well being during coronavirus has been published by Public Health England which echoes the advice given by Hestia: separate ‘work-life’ and ‘home-life’, maintain a routine, focus on a hobby and stay connected.

As the pandemic continues, so too will the tireless work of all at the Hestia Recovery Café.

To access the telephone support line call 07794 394 920 and the drop-in service is located at 966 Garratt Lane, SW17 0ND .

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