The coronavirus crisis is already having a significant impact on people’s mental wellbeing, and will also have profound psychological consequences in the longer term. Sir Norman Lamb discusses this and the key role that community groups will have in helping to deal with the psychological aftermath of this crisis.
Sir Norman Lamb
As the days and weeks of this lockdown pass, I grow increasingly concerned about the longer term psychological impact of what so many people are going through. Lost jobs, businesses built up through years of toil, on the brink, incomes dried up, loved ones lost. For younger people a growing sense of a more uncertain future, cancelled exams, loss of physical contact with friends. So many households will be going through traumatic times. We see disturbing reports of a rise in reports of domestic violence – so more victims, petrified behind those closed doors. And don’t forget those who are already dealing with mental ill health. Many will be experiencing heightened anxiety.
The physical consequences of coronavirus are serious and life threatening, but it is vital that we do not overlook the psychological impact in the months and years ahead.
At the moment, our thoughts are very directly with frontline NHS and social care staff coping with deeply distressing situations whilst also massively worrying for their own safety, too often with inadequate protection. But scroll forward a few months. The slow burn here will be the after effects of the trauma that so many of those workers and others will have gone through, including those who will suffer bereavement. It is at that time when we will need to watch out for people’s mental health and wellbeing. We will need to gear ourselves up as a society for how we respond. Government must start planning for this, but the public coffers will be severely strained. Local authorities will also be under massive financial pressure. So we will need a community response as well. We will all have our part to play in offering mutual support to one another. And the value of community-based organisations will be greater than ever. Yet they may also struggle to survive the financial tsunami which has hit the charity sector.
The Norfolk Community Foundation is playing its part in meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Norfolk. Their Covid-19 Community Response Fund is already providing vital support. My aim is that the Norfolk Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund that I established with my wife, Mary, last summer with the help and support of the Foundation could help with the longer-term psychological consequences in our county.
Last August, we put in £10,000 to get the fund started and it has now reached £130,000. We have set an objective of raising £1,000,000 so that we could establish an endowment fund in order to offer lasting benefit – which will now be more important than ever in dealing with the long-term impact of coronavirus.
The aim of the fund is to support small grassroots organisations working in mental health, learning disability and autism, with a focus on children, teenagers and young adults. We want to focus on prevention and early support to prevent deterioration of health.
Alongside the fund, we plan to work with the University of East Anglia in order to ensure that we focus on what works – an evidence based approach.
We also want to build greater collaboration and improved capacity amongst the organisations we support so as to improve effectiveness. Our aim is to try to build an exemplar in Norfolk to demonstrate to the rest of the country how community-based organisations can be assisted to offer more effective support, which will be vital as they continue to combat the effects of coronavirus on the most vulnerable people.
The economic impact of this crisis will be profound. The ability to raise funds for charitable purposes may well be seriously compromised but together we can demonstrate that Norfolk cares. We can make sure that our young people have a bright future. We have got it within ourselves as a county to make a difference. As we make our way through the darkness cast by coronavirus, let’s build something for our county for which we can all be proud.
You can contribute to the Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund by going to www.norfolkfoundation.com/giving-philanthropy/mental-health or by cheque made payable to Norfolk Community Foundation (referencing Norman Lamb on the reverse of the cheque) sent to the Norfolk Community Foundation, St. James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN.