Covid-19 and Our Mental Health Support

By Autism Voice UK | May 11 2021

Covid-19 and Our Mental Health Support

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    The uncertainty around the covid-19 pandemic increased the chance for autistic people to experience mental health conditions. Parents/carers of autistic children, experiences of anxiety, lower feelings of hope during covid-19 were high. Young people with autism and/or learning disabilities are particularly at risk due to their vulnerability to unpredictable and complex changes.
    In assessing the impact, the pandemic was having on our service-users, Autism Voice conducted a survey in July 2020 to help us understand the existing needs of our services-users and plan our support to them. 31 people responded to the survey via survey monkey. 13 male and 18 females. 11 described themselves as autistic while 20 considered themselves parents/carers. 100% stated mental health support was a crucial need. 60% said social isolation was a big challenge, 40% stated they were anxious about the impact the pandemic was having on them.40% said they would like to be supported face to face while 40% said they were less confident about using public transport.
    Challenges:

    • Parents are not professionals and struggled to provide professional support that is normally provided in a school/college setting.
    • Autistic children were gripped with fear for a longer period because they could not properly understand the concept of the corona virus, some parents reported their children were constantly anxious and having meltdowns because of the shock of the March lockdown which came out almost instantly. Once some children understood what the virus was all about, they did not want to go out. Home-schooled children particularly felt socially isolated.
    • Many parents struggled with lack of resources to support their children at home. Some parents did not have computers, laptops or even a good quality smart phone which children could use to access virtual learning.
    • Parents also faced challenge in providing one to one support to autistic children. For some parents with more than one autistic child, this was particularly challenging.

    Response from some of our service-users to our 2020 survey
    ‘It has been very stressful. With all the kids at home and having to cater for them 24/7. My autistic daughter has not been well and not being able to understand why she is always at home has ever caused more stress and anxiety’- Res 12
    ‘It was hard but I just moved on and focus in the future instead of the past’ -Res. 4
    ‘The covid-19 pandemic had affected me for six months from March 2020 until August 2020, but I hope the social distancing measures would be scrapped by four months’ time in November 2020, possibly just in time for Christmas 2020.’ – Res 7
    ‘The pandemic has stretched me out of my comfort zone. I am exhausted.’ – Res 5 
    Our Response
    In response, Autism Voice started a mental health support service. We supported staff, volunteers (including our board of trustees) and our services-users. The support included capacity building workshops, weekly mental health support sessions, weekly social club for young adults with autism, weekly telephone and online advice and support, support in making claims for benefits, application to college/university, job/career search and support with application for Education, Health and Care plan and Personal Independent Payments. We also run holiday activities for children with autism to enhance their happiness by ensuring they spend much time outdoors playing and exploring their talents in arts and craft.
    Our MH support service to our community continues. We are pleased to learn that our services-users are happy about the stability of having a regular contact, someone they can rely on to talk about their feelings. As people with autism, regular routine is particularly important for their mental wellbeing and we are incredibly happy to be providing that. Our services-users feel they belong to a family. We are reducing the feeling of isolation and suicidal by ensuring our services-users enjoy connecting with others. Parents/carers are happy too. We are working to remove the feeling of depression in parents and signposting them to other services where they could access resources. The children are excited to have a regular support bubble they join every school holiday.

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Autism Voice UK