The March that changed everything
By Danielle Hunt
In the past 12 months, Covid-19 has taken more than 100,000 lives across the country and caused huge disruption to our communities and families, to our work and to our everyday lives. It has been incredibly challenging for everyone.
Even before the pandemic, we’d seen rising numbers of people coming to the charity with mental health issues and increasingly complex needs. Our market research in May 2019 revealed that over 70 per cent of respondents felt that mental health was a core issue affecting the sector. The events of the past 12 months have only exacerbated this and unfortunately accelerated this trend.
We know from last September’s second annual workforce wellbeing survey, conducted in partnership with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, that the profession has found the past year exceptionally tough. More than three quarters of survey respondents told us that the pandemic had impacted their mental health and wellbeing either partially or significantly; 89 per cent of respondents were at high risk of burnout.
As the profession’s charity, we recognised that we needed to respond quickly. Thanks to a legacy from pharmacist Robert Wardley, we were able to develop our wellbeing offering. This is supported by our peer-to-peer listening service, Listening Friends, staffed by pharmacist volunteers, who understand the pressures those in the profession face. By the end of 2019, we had provided more than 15,000 acts of wellbeing support to individuals across the sector.
We began 2020 on a strong footing, with a mission focused on championing the wellbeing of our pharmacy family, and a new five-year strategy.
As we quickly adapted to a new way of working, we ensured that our free and confidential services were unaffected by our move online and that people could still access the support they needed. We knew that as a small charity, in order to extend our reach and support more people, we needed to be clever and more efficient with our resources.
as a small charity, in order to extend our reach and support more people, we needed to be clever and more efficient with our resources
Thanks to the support of our charity partners and sponsors, in particularly the PDA, Well, Teva UK and Alphega, we invested in the development of our online platforms. Their financial support enabled us to develop the ACTNow campaign and the Wardley Wellbeing Hub – a central hub, packed with wellbeing-focused resources that individuals can access and share with teams at any time of the day, any day of the week. These include self learning modules, factsheets, videos and printable activities and tools. In the latter half of the year, we developed online versions of our wellbeing workshops that cover the signs and symptoms of stress, stress management, building resilience and time management. We were also keen to open up and encourage conversations around mental health in the sector.
On our Wardley Wellbeing Hub, we have an area dedicated to ‘your stories’, where people from all sectors of the profession shared their experiences and learnings. We received some really positive feedback about both the campaign and the Hub, with people telling us they had gained insight into methods that genuinely helped them to promote their wellbeing.
Impact on the charity
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. Our entire team has had to adjust to home working, and some of our more face-to-face volunteer work has been put on hold. This is an area we hope to focus on in 2021.
We’ve faced a number of fundraising obstacles too. Our income has taken a hit, leaving ongoing challenges for the years ahead. Despite this, our incredible TeamGreen has stood by us and done what they can. We’ve been grateful and inspired by the people who’ve found their own ways to support us and we’d welcome any new recruits who would like to fundraise for us this year (www.pharmacistsupport.org/support-us/).
All that being said – we are incredibly positive about 2021, which marks 180 years of our charitable support and 25 years of the Listening Friends, two exciting milestones we hope to proudly recognise across the year.
We hope everyone across our profession continues to ACTNow – to reach out for help when they need it, to engage with us to help raise awareness and funds, and to share experiences and learnings so that we can ensure no one in our pharmacy family faces challenging times alone.