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Posted on Apr 23 2020 by Jo Lehmann

Lockdown: Podcast reveals how a psychiatric unit is coping with COVID-19

Listen to the new podcast here

St Andrew’s Healthcare has today released a new podcast, revealing what life is like for patients and staff on a secure mental health ward during the COVID-19 outbreak.

From being unable to go out, or see family face-to-face, to staff having to wear PPE, the episode explores the additional challenges and anxieties that the virus is bringing to life in a secure psychiatric hospital.

The podcast, is part of the award-nominated series from the Charity, called On the Ward, hosted by staff nurse, John Barry Waldron.

During the course of the 40 minute episode, entitled ‘Lockdown’, John speaks to two patients detained under the mental health act, as well as Caroline Power, a clinical psychologist, Katie Stanton, a nurse, and Clarence Elcock a Healthcare Assistant, to find out how they’re dealing with the new normal.

As John explains, for some patients, who’re living with complex conditions such as schizophrenia or psychosis, adding Coronavirus into the mix can be very confusing:

“For some people who have impaired judgement or perhaps see or hear things due to their mental illness, adding in a global pandemic is making life on the ward particularly challenging. Many may not understand why they can’t go out, why staff are wearing masks, and why we’re having to adhere to social distancing, so it has been difficult.

“Through this episode we wanted to share with the world the realities of how a secure mental health hospital is coping and in some cases thriving, but also share some tips and advice for those listening from home who may also be struggling.”

One of the female patients, who has been at St Andrew’s for almost 18 months, explains to John that while she’s coping well, the virus is also likely to delay her discharge from hospital:

“The only thing that’s stopping me [leaving hospital] is finding somewhere to go, because it’s so hard to find something with the right support so I can carry on being the way I want to be.”

However the patient told John that she’s just “radically accepting” the situation – a psychological skill taught in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, whereby, as the name suggests, a person must completely and totally accept something, and not resist something which you cannot or choose not to change.

Caroline Power, one of the psychologists at St Andrew’s Healthcare said it’s important for both patients and staff alike to maintain a sense of routine and structure throughout this virus:

“[The patients] feel a lot more stuck than they ordinarily would. They can’t see their families, they can’t have visits… things which are so important when you’re sectioned.”

“Often my job involves talking and doing that with a mask on is really, really hard. Some of the patients are ok with it but for others, maybe older patients who are hard of hearing it’s a challenge.”

 "But there’s lots of things we’re doing to keep spirits up… maintaining a sense of structure, exercise, and activities are really important.”

Both John and Caroline also advise those struggling to continue connecting with their friends and family, and to open up and talk.

Having mental stability is also key to cope with this situation. Emotional intelligence training can also be a helpful tool to improve  your self awareness to prevent mental health problems.

The new episode, On the Ward: Lockdown, is out on Apple iTunes and Google Play now. Or listen here

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org