When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, people’s mental health also took a hit.  The uncertainty, risk of illness and isolation through lockdown increased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicidal feelings.  We responded by setting up weekly email check ins with people across the organisation. We adapted our support to check in with people remotely and continued holistic and supportive supervision and workforce support.  We also set up Peer Support Groups for people to come together online using video conferencing to talk about how they are finding things, and support others. 

Our Supported Internships project formed a weekly Wellbeing Group enabling young people to find ways to keep a healthy and happy mind. We later opened this up to everyone in bemix.

Not everyone in bemix is able to connect online. So we delivered "Isolation Packs" including worksheets on wellbeing, Easy Read exercises to keep physically active, recipes, adult colouring and more.  No one is left out in bemix - we work creatively and flexibly to ensure everyone belongs.

Though we are now able to resume our projects and work in person to some extent, we are using what we have learnt about what mental health support works well for people to develop and run continued mental health peer support.

We have been working in partnership with Learning Disability England and SeeAbility to train people with learning difficulties and/or autism in how to look after their own mental health. 

Jess Leonard, Senior Work Coach and Mental Health Peer Support Lead says:

“I started the Wellbeing group during lockdown after working with a young person in our SI programme who was looking for ways to relieve their anxiety because of Coronavirus.  We offered the activities we were doing to other young people and ended up forming a group of 4 - 6 people who met online once a week and focused on various activities related to wellbeing, such as spending time in nature, creative activities and music.  The group was refreshingly open and honest about their feelings - both negative and positive - and had plenty of enthusiasm for the activities.  We have already had to recognise times when they’ve needed support and had to work hard to engage with that support, due to having learning difficulties and/or autism.  We used these skills and applied them to taking some control of our mental health; people had already built up a lot of resilience and self-awareness through previous experiences, enabling some really positive steps to improving mental health.  

My colleague and Self Advocate Sammy and I took part in Learning Disability England's (LDE) Pass-it-Online training which has provided us with loads of great resources and ideas for delivering training on mental health and wellbeing, specifically for people with learning difficulties.  The training is clear and informative and comes with easy-read handouts as well as different activities, so it should suit a range of learning styles, allowing as many people as possible to benefit from it.  Each training session aims to create trust and privacy within the group and leaves space and time for people to feel able to share their experiences.  It really encompasses the bemix values so that everyone can be seen and heard."


I really enjoyed the [LDE Mental Health] training and think it is extremely important because it helps to learn more about mental health and is very insightful” - Sammy Lamb

We plan to facilitate the training with people in bemix and explore whether continuing peer support groups is something people want to do.  We expect these groups will enjoy the encouragement, support and laughter that the Wellbeing group did over lockdown.  We will develop this work as part of a 6 month project with LDE and SeeAbility, who are providing funding, training and further resources for this. 

“It would be great to see some friendships forming through these groups, there have been so few opportunities to meet new people recently and I would love to see people gain something positive out of what has been a really tough year.  It will also be fantastic for people across different parts of bemix to get to meet and learn from each other.” - Jess Leonard