Here at Birchwood House, every day is dedicated to nurturing not just the physical health of our residents, but also their mental well-being. We celebrated World Mental Health Day on October 10, which was established on the same day in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health. As decided by the World Health Organisation, the 2023 theme was our minds, our rights – mental health is a human right. Everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has the right to the highest attainable standard of mental health. This includes the right to be protected from mental health risks, and the right to available, accessible, acceptable, and good-quality care.
Encouraging connection and a culture of sharing
A big part of mental health is emotional wellbeing. As a workplace, we offer Bupa wellbeing to staff as an external and impartial support service. We also conduct regular welfare checks and support the mental health of each member of our Birchwood House team where possible by providing access to advice and resources. Checking in with each other and fostering an open culture where everyone feels confident and comfortable to speak up is built into the foundation of our workplace.
For our residents, we operate with the same open culture to ensure that everyone we care for feels able to connect and share any struggles with the team so that they can receive the best support and care for their mental wellbeing. Some of the ways we work to proactively manage this include encouraging and facilitating residents to:
- Stay connected and keep in touch with friends and family. This may be through letters, phone calls or organising in-person visits. We hold a variety of annual themed events to ensure residents have a fun celebration to look forward to and encourage families to visit and enjoy the seasons together.
- Do something that brings them joy every day, and find things that make them laugh, such as movies, books, conversations, or hobbies and interests.
- Remain active, which can improve mood and boost serotonin – light exercise or even moving just a little bit more within each resident’s own capabilities can help. We also support this with our activities roster and group exercise with Sarah Domoney.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
According to Age UK, seasonal affective disorder is a growing concern among the elderly. While the cause is not specifically known, it’s said to be linked to the decreasing hours of daylight and exposure to sunlight in the winter months. A drop in socialisation, community connection, and ability to enjoy outdoor hobbies can also contribute. It’s not uncommon to notice symptoms in older people especially as they may start to spend more time indoors due to health or mobility problems. Typical symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:
- low mood and energy;
- changes in appetite;
- feeling less able to talk to people, or needing to be quiet;
- preferring to be alone more than usual;
- crying more than usual, or over things that wouldn’t normally make you upset;
- feeling pessimistic, hopeless or guilty;
- having difficulty getting restful sleep or not wanting to get out of bed;
- losing interest in things or not enjoying things you usually do, difficulty with concentration and memory.
The severity of symptoms varies from one person to another; for some, symptoms will be fairly mild, whilst others may find that symptoms have a big impact on their daily life and mental health. We are especially aware of the risks of SAD for our residents and prioritise helping them to keep active, foster new seasonal hobbies, enjoy natural sunlight, and connect with our team and their friends or family.
Seeking professional support
While we have a variety of support systems in place for both staff and residents to access support and advice to help maintain good mental health and wellbeing, we also encourage the use of professional advice helplines such as those shared below.
- For mental health support, call the Samaritans: 116 123
- For mental health and general advice, call Age UK: 0800 678 1602
- For befriending and mental health advice, call The Silver Line: 0800 470 80 90
- For loneliness and general advice, call Independent Age: 0800 319 6789
- For grief and bereavement advice, call Cruse: 0808 808 1677
Find out more about how we look after residents’ mental well-being in this blog.