You may already know that it is Mental Health Awareness Week, and that this year’s theme is Kindness.
Kindness is a huge part of the work that goes on across the NHS, but it is particularly important in our work as a mental health and learning disability trust. Compassion and empathy are traits that all of our incredible teams show daily, when working with people who are showing signs of distress, and often in difficult circumstances.
PALS feedback throughout the past year has included a range of incredibly positive comments nodding to the kindness of our incredible teams. One piece of feedback to the Exeter Community Mental Health Team said, “You have shown me a great deal of care and compassion which I really appreciate and have helped me to keep going. I know it hasn't always been easy. It kind of feels like even though you saw the bits of me I dislike the most you didn't reject me - which feels huge. I think you have been a constant during a very turbulent period and it is difficult to imagine not having the opportunity to be myself in a safe space. Ultimately, I hope I can create my own safe space in which I can embrace all of me. So, thank you. Two very little words but which are genuinely meant.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic and all the challenges it brings, we have continued to see so many remarkable examples of the kindness of our staff. The introduction of PPE has been a particular challenge for many. Ellie, a Nurse on The Cedars, discussed the realities of being a Mental Health Nurse in the time of COVID-19 in a BBC interview recently:
”It’s really hard. Trying to explain to someone that you can’t hold their hand while they’re crying about a loss of a loved one. Explaining to someone who’s very chaotic why you have to wear a mask; why they can’t come within two metres of you. Why you’re asking them not to touch your mask, not to pull it off. We are supporting some really unwell people, who will get in your face and will try to remove your mask. It’s hard to give someone help with their anxiety when your own anxiety is really high”.
Despite the added difficulties of working during this pandemic, our teams have continued to go above and beyond, using kindness to help people every day. Staff have spoken about the importance of making an effort to communicate well even whilst wearing a facemask; how smiling with the eyes is more important than ever to connect with those you’re caring for and to convey the kindness that would usually be shown on your face.
Dani Piccot, Staff Nurse on the Mother and Baby Unit, said, “A crucial part of our job is to make therapeutic relationships with our mums and we as a team are being challenged to think of ways to communicate with the added barrier of PPE. I’ve been creating badges for staff to wear that includes a photo of themselves smiling. The idea is that it will help our patients to get to know the staff member behind the mask and make that human connection which is so very important.”
Nick Crew, Assistant Practitioner, discussed how he’s going above and beyond to care for people at this time, “Regarding patients who come onto the ward and are then barrier nursed in their rooms for 7 days, I have made sure I go and spend 30 minutes with them several times a day. It can be a very stressful time for someone when they are first taken into hospital and to be confined to their room only heightens this distress. I feel it is very important that, as healthcare professionals, we spend extra time with these patients, with many feeding back that they really appreciate me making time to keep them company and having a good old chat, usually over a cup of tea!
Thank you to everyone across the Trust for continuing to hold Kindness at the heart of all that we do to support others.