While COVID-19 is a physical condition, the effects of the pandemic as a whole are much wider. The risk to an individual’s mental health and wellbeing is high, particularly due to the impact of isolation and lockdown.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and as part of our #HereforDerby series, we had a timely chat with Kristian Ludlow, Health and Wellbeing Adviser on Derby City Council’s Corporate Wellbeing team.

Kristian’s day-to-day role is very varied, looking after employee wellbeing across the Council, as well as within specific teams. This includes working proactively to improve our wellbeing offer, building strategies, and reactively supporting in wellbeing challenges with individuals or teams.

In 2018 he also started training colleagues to become Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) in order to create a network of people who could provide mental health support across the Council.

Since 2018, we’ve trained over 200 MHFAs, with regular feedback about how much of a difference that makes in people’s lives.

Talking about how his job had changed since the pandemic lockdown started, Kristian said;

“Obviously, my job is one that usually involves a lot of face-to-face interaction with my colleagues, but now my work is done in front of a computer. That does come with challenges, it’s obviously harder to support when you’re not face-to-face.

“The team and I have also been trying to ensure that any information that we put out to colleagues is trustworthy and reliable. This can be challenging because guidance changes so regularly.

“The team spirit throughout this period has been brilliant. To see the appetite across DCC to help others; the MHFAs stepping up, colleagues being redeployed into critical areas – that is just awesome and reminds you of how fantastic people can be.”

Kristian’s own experience of the pandemic has been challenging – he discussed the problems that those who are shielding could be facing.

“I’m shielding because of my underlying conditions, as is my sister and father. My wife and my mum are also both key workers.

“There are many people like me who haven’t been able to go outside for a couple of months – but they might also be living alone, which is even more isolating. The community spirit at the moment is incredible, but people do need to keep following the guidelines to make sure we’re not delaying the process even more.”

When talking more specifically about mental health, Kristian touched upon ensuring that that you be kind to yourself during this difficult time.

“Although it’s important to be kind locally, to your family and neighbours, it’s almost important to take care of yourself. We’ll all have ups and downs at the moment and it’s vital to your mental health that you remain patient and don’t put too much undue pressure on yourself.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in the country and is challenging for everyone’s mental wellbeing. It’s okay not to be okay, and it’s perfectly normal for all of us to be feeling stressed and anxious right now.

There are plenty of ways to make sure you are taking care of your wellbeing during this difficult time – take a look at some of the tips and support networks we have highlighted in our article.