As life begins to return to normality, JLife’s Elaine Bertmitz speaks to Sandi Mann, the clinical lead for Jewish Action for Mental Health to discover the true impact of lockdown on Manchester’s mental health.
You may, for all sorts of reasons, have struggled to cope with the circumstances which were thrust upon us last March. If so, even under these conditions, you may be more fortunate now than you would have been 20 years ago. Had you been born before the late 1990s and been suffering from a reactive depression, or the exacerbation of an existing mental health condition you would probably have struggled with it largely alone, often without the sympathy of those who were closest to you. Shame would have probably compounded your suffering and prevented you for reaching out for help.
Things were changing for the better well before the pandemic began and with very public recognition of mental ill health as the cause of suicide, self-harm or isolation and the establishment of new Jewish organisations like Neshama and Jewish Action for Mental Health (JAMH) which offer support to the community. “The need for organisations became immediate and the NHS was already inflicting waiting periods of months on people whose needs were immediate.” Sandi Mann, the clinical lead for JAMH told me. “We have learned much operating during the pandemic that we will retain in the future.
“We have moved our events and therapy sessions online – something we once thought impossible, and our sister organisation, Neshama has provided for more religious families who may not have them available and where home is the source of the problem, we have managed to provide refuge in rare cases. “The main advantage is that we have been able to provide services free and quickly. We have 36 accredited therapists or counsellors, mostly mature and some of them specialists. We are not a crisis centre. The NHS will always help in a crisis, but our goal is to provide a mainstream fast responding service.”
The proposition must be working, because this year alone, JAMH has supported over 500 people and provided much-needed art, cookery, music and exercise classes for the wider community. 36% of the people calling its helpline have been under 18, and 42% have been suffering from anxiety while nearly 20% have depression. At first they were dealing with a lot of clients shocked at the way life had changed, but gradually, for some this developed into anxiety as to how they will manage rejoining society, or about the loss of guidance, social contact or money. These problems have hit all of us to a greater or lesser degree, but what is clear is that not all of us have the necessary tools to deal with unforeseen changes. Some however, have just needed reassurance to access the
resilience they require to change their lifestyles or attitudes. They eventually become proud of their achievements and are willing to share pointers to success with others.
Whatever the cause of this rise in mental health enquiries, one thing does matter: those who are suffering need not feel ashamed to ask for professional help. Thanks in part to JAMH, it is quickly and freely available.
If you feel the need to talk to someone or require support, call 07510 204 844, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.Jamh.org.uk