Covid-19 Action Fund winners: mental health
The Covid-19 Action Fund provides grants for Churchill Fellows to increase their vital contribution to the national effort against Covid-19. Hundreds of pandemic projects nationwide are being run or assisted by Churchill Fellows, using the international expertise they gained during their Fellowships overseas. Here are the Action Fund recipients working on mental health issues.
Alison Jordan: supporting people bereaved by suicide
Research shows that people bereaved by suicide can have a particularly complex set of feelings and can experience additional struggles and dilemmas in trying to resolve their grief. This has been heightened during the pandemic, when life has become unpredictable and support, human connection, normal funerals and rituals are impossible or restricted in some way. Alison Jordan from Exmouth is the founder of Pete's Dragons, a suicide bereavement support charity which operates across Devon, set up in memory of her brother Pete. They have been operational throughout the pandemic, supporting people online, but the increased complexities of the situation require a new approach.
Alison will use her grant to develop and roll out a therapeutic programme for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to people bereaved by suicide during the pandemic. The programme is based on a model produced by The Centre for Complicated Grief in the USA, which Alison visited during her Churchill Fellowship in 2019. Alison and her team at Pete's Dragons will redesign the model, a research-backed 16-week therapeutic intervention programme for PGD, for their beneficiaries and the UK audience. They will trial the programme once the lockdown restrictions have lifted, initially with 14 beneficiaries, before evaluating its impact and rolling it out more widely. Alison's Churchill Fellowship explored innovative approaches to suicide prevention and suicide bereavement in the USA and was supported by the John Armitage Charitable Trust and the Samaritans.
Dan Trevor: protecting young people at risk of self-harm and suicide
The number of teenage suicides in England and Wales increased by 67 per cent between 2010 and 2017. Office of National Statistics figures show that, in the last year alone, 187 under-19s took their own lives, compared with 162 the year before - a rise of 15 per cent. The current lockdown is likely to worsen these statistics. Dan Trevor is a psychotherapist from Denbighshire in North Wales, who specialises in working with children and young people via Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) sessions. DBT provides training in managing emotions, navigating crisis situations and resisting urges to self-harm and suicide, and is particularly effective in helping chronically suicidal and self-injuring young people.
Dan and his colleagues usually deliver DBT skills training face to face, but under the current social distancing restrictions, they have not been able to do this. He will use the grant initially to train six therapists to transition existing DBT groups into online virtual meetings. Therapists would be trained in adapting their face to face skills in assessment of clients online, managing risk and safeguarding, legal issues, insurance, security and data protection implications, so that they feel equipped to continue supporting their existing clients. Additionally, Dan will seek partnerships with schools, in order to help new clients. Finally he will establish a permanent online service that will continue beyond the lockdown, in order to help young people who are socially anxious or lack the confidence to attend DBT in person. Dan's Churchill Fellowship investigated mindfulness interventions for children and young people in the USA and was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.
Evelyn Sharp: providing online trauma therapy for key workers
Key workers providing treatment, care and emergency response on the frontline are at high risk of acute stress, PTSD and burnout during the current Covid-19 crisis. Many of these key workers, particularly carers and care home staff, are low-paid and cannot access private trauma therapy, which averages £55-110 per session. At the same time, the current nature of the crisis means that many will not fulfil the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, which would give access to free NHS treatment.
Counsellor and psychotherapist Evelyn Sharp, from Brighton & Hove, will use her grant to provide free online trauma therapy to keyworkers who are experiencing acute stress linked to COVID-19. These free sessions will be available to any keyworker across the UK - but low-paid keyworkers will be prioritised. Each person will receive between 4-8 sessions. Additionally, Evelyn will share her learnings, on delivering mental health interventions during a mass trauma, with her colleagues and professional networks. Evelyn's Churchill Fellowship to the USA explored the use of the performing arts to support psychological recovery from trauma.