The community’s main mental health charity is reporting increased demand as people struggle to come to terms with the radical changes to everyday life.
Jami has had to shut its four hubs around London and the Head Room café in Golders Green. It is putting services online or via phone, and is redeploying staff.
According to head of services Louise Kermode, the number of users of Jami’s phone befriending scheme has risen beyond 300 and the charity is running a crisis appeal for funds.
“It’s a huge challenge being isolated or stuck indoors without the ability to do a level of exercise you might normally do,” Jami communications manager Karen Wilson pointed out.
Routine and purpose were “hugely important” to mental wellbeing and could be missing from the lives of those currently out of work or isolated at home. Recognising the importance of exercise in mental wellbeing, Jami’s fitness co-ordinator is developing ways for people to exercise at home.
As well as virtual support, the charity is still managing to deliver lunches twice a week to the doors of users most in need of support, with the volunteers ferrying the meals stopping for a short chat — albeit while safe distancing.
One recipient — Caroline, a 63-year-old with bipolar disorder who lives on her own — said the situation had been “very difficult to accept at first”.
But she felt better once Jami had assured her that the charity would keep in touch.
The volunteer who delivered her vegetarian lunch is also called Caroline and the two “had a giggle” about it, “which was nice”.
Sara Benbassat, 43, is delivering five meals a day after being redeployed from her job as a Jami receptionist. She said the experience was “eye-opening” as “you can see the difference it makes” to recipients.
“People are so appreciative that someone has thought about them. It can really change someone’s whole day.
“You feel like you’re giving; you feel like you’re doing something that’s worthwhile.”