The Jewish Chronicle
PANDEMIC MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS HITS
THE DEMAND for mental health services across the UK Jewish community has reached unprecedented levels, with calls for support more than doubling since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to figures released by the community’s leading mental health charity, Jami, there has been a 110 per cent increase in “requests for help” over the past 12 months.
Over the same period, there has been a 133 per cent increase in referrals of young adults aged 18 to 25.
There has also been a 170 per cent increase in support for people who have used the charity’s Carer and Family support service.
As a result, the charity has increased the number of mental health professionals it employs by 25 per cent — with 50 specialist staff now working at Jami.
Overall, the increase in demand for services over the pandemic has cost the charity an extra £500,000, with total annual expenditure estimated to be £3.2 million.
In an interview with the JC, the charity’s chief executive, Laurie Rackind, said he was not surprised by the surge in demand over the pandemic. “Without a doubt, it’s the biggest spike, the biggest change we have ever had in referrals,” he said.
“Our figures have more than doubled across the board.”
Young adults, people over the age of 65 and carers of people with mental health conditions were keenly affected over the pandemic, he acknowledged.
He said: “As with most mental health service providers, at the start of the lockdown, we did not see a huge spike.
“We saw people who had used mental health services needing them again. Then, as we started to get further into the pandemic, we saw a real spike in referrals.
“There were people calling us who had never used mental health services. There was a peak in June and figures have remained high ever since.”
He added: “Whilst people were talking in terms of ‘viral curves’, we knew that the ‘mental health curve’ would be delayed and have a longer lasting impact.”
Mr Rackind said stigma around mental health is declining.
“One of the positives to have come out of the pandemic, is that more people are talking about mental health,” he said.
“But there is still a generational split. Young people are more comfortable talking about mental health than older people.”
He said that men still struggled to ask for support, and women made up the majority of new referrals.
“Mental health equally affects men and women, but suicide figures are worst for men because they do not seek help.
“We need to encourage the community to talk about mental health.”
As a result of the demand on services, Jami has not furloughed any staff during the pandemic.
Chefs working at the charity’s Head Room café in Golders Green, which has been closed for the duration of lockdown,
It’s the biggest spike we have ever had in referrals’
have been deployed to prepare meals to be distributed among the charity’s most vulnerable service users.
The meals are distributed by the charity’s 300 volunteers, who are following the principle that “doorstep chats are as important as food deliveries”.
In addition, to remotely reach people over lockdown, the charity distributed sim cards, laptops and tablets to service users who had “no digital means to connect”.