A mental health first aider offers advice on coping during lockdown

Mental health first aider Nicky Franzen-Vipers

Nicky Franzen-Vipers, who is a mental health first aider, is offering advice to those in need during lockdown. - Credit: Supplied

Royston mental health first aider Nicky Franzen-Vipers is emphasising the importance of seeking support if you are struggling.

Usually I'm late with everything, but not with getting involved in local mental health support.

In 2019 I took over the Rethink Mental Illness peer support group and trained as a mental health first aider - thinking it made sense to be able to see when someone might need support, and what options I could signpost them to.

Mental health first aid is like physical first aid. I'm not a doctor or nurse, but as a colleague or friend I'm on hand to stop things getting worse and get people in touch with the right help. So it seems my training was just in time.

The thing I have learnt in lockdown is that everyone has been tested and some have been completely ambushed by their feelings.

As a mental health advocate I want everyone to feel empowered to discuss how they feel, recognise the signs of a drop in mental wellbeing, and know where to go for help.

When I was training we'd talk about the 'stress container' - it's where all our worries and burdens go. Usually we have things that help us to keep it from overflowing; hobbies, coffee with friends, family time, holidays, or whatever you look forward to in life.

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At the moment so much of that has been taken away so those stress containers are overflowing. In lockdown we've needed to find different ways to keep happy. I'd encourage everyone to try something new, but here are some general things that can help a lot of people:

· Get outside: Daylight and fresh air are two of the best things. Even if it's a short walk around the block, you can reward yourself with a cup of tea

· Be kind to yourself: Make time for yourself where you can and do what makes you happy

· Seek help if you need it: GPs and mental health services are running, and your mental health is as important as your physical health, you deserve to be well and are entitled to help if you want it.

If you need to speak to someone, then Samaritans are always available on 116 123. You can also email jo@samaritans.org for a response within 24 hours, write a letter or download the self-help app at samaritans.org

If you or someone else is in crisis or risk of harm then call 999.