Winter wellbeing and mental health

­­­­This time of year is characterised by Christmas card images and advertisements depicting bright lights, hope, laughter and friendship. The reality is that many of us experience a low feeling when winter kicks in – but as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, so might our level of wellbeing.

Dr Sarah MacDermott, local GP and Deputy Chair of the CCG says: “At a time when we are generally expected to feel most fulfilled and surrounded by loved ones, feelings of stress, pressure and loneliness can become overwhelming – especially for those that are already dealing with the effects of bereavement, isolation, deprivation or those with existing mental health conditions.”

Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and disability as well as making some people more vulnerable to depression and dementia. It’s even said to reduce your expected lifespan

Dr MacDermott goes onto say: “It is the small day to day interactions with those around us that can help us feel more connected and help lift our spirits. For many people, especially those who are housebound or frail – a quick chat over a coffee could make a huge difference.”

As well as those feeling under pressure, or facing the effects of daily stresses, people living with depression or another diagnosed mental health condition who might normally link in with their designated health professionals may find that services are less contactable over the holiday period. It is especially important to make sure that if you are in this position you can stay in touch with people around you and access your support networks such as friends, family, neighbours.

Voluntary organisations such as Live Well Kent, Mental Health Matters and the Samaritans are contactable over the holiday period.  If the way you feel is impacting on your life each day, it is extremely important to seek help.

The Mental Health Matters helpline (0800 107 0160) offers confidential emotional support and guidance for people in Kent and Medway 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Helpline staff are trained in counselling, so can provide support over the phone and can signpost to other support services.

Samaritans provides confidential support for anyone feeling down, depressed or anxious, as well as those who may be in despair. Volunteers can be contacted 24/7 on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org  or, for face-to-face support, visit www.samaritans.org for details of your local branch.

For more information on mental health in Kent and Medway, visit the Live Well Kent website (www.livewellkent.org.uk), call Live Well Kent on 0800 567 7699 or talk to your GP.

NHS 111 is also available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week over the phone. You can dial 111 to speak to someone if you need urgent health advice but it’s not an emergency.

The Health Help Now app and website can also help to direct you to NHS services that are open near you. Search Health Help Now from your app store or visit: http://kent.healthhelpnow.nhs.uk

Wellbeing and mental health support for Children and Young People

There is a single point of access to the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services provided by North East London Foundation Trust, delivered locally in Swale and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley. Its purpose is to provide support, advice, and guidance to individual children and young people, their parents or carers, and health and social care professionals including those who wish to refer to a service and those seeking guidance or information.

Anyone who contacts the single point of access and is not eligible for a commissioned service will be signposted to alternative support.

Telephone: 0300 123  4496

For more information about the service, please visit www.nelft.nhs.uk/services-kent-children-young-peoples-mental-health

Operating times

Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm

Saturday: 8am to 12 noon

The NELFT Mental Health Direct (MHD) team provides additional support out of hours and weekends in the form of telephone advice, and triage to Crisis teams. The telephone number is 0300 555 1000.