Sheena's blog - Spreading some warmth
It’s easy to see why so many people, including me, love the winter: the cosy evenings at home; the striking landscapes after a frost or snow; and with so many occasions to celebrate, there’s lots of time to cherish with family and loved ones.
But not everyone is as fortunate as me. For many, winter can be the harshest of times. Each year, an older person dies every seven minutes as a direct result of low temperatures, and we know that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK – indeed, last year Samaritans received over 198,000 calls just over the Christmas period.
For me, these statistics say one thing: understanding people’s physical and mental health needs together – rather than just in isolation – has never been more important. Parity of esteem is a term you’ve probably come across (perhaps in a previous blog of mine). It is a shared understanding that people with poor physical health are at higher risk of experiencing mental health conditions, and people with mental ill health are more likely to have poor physical health.
As the evidence shows, during winter, vulnerable people are more susceptible to health and wellbeing struggles. As care providers, it’s our responsibility to make parity of esteem something meaningful, but we also need to educate and empower people to take the best possible care of themselves and those around them.
At CWP, we run a number of initiatives to support people throughout winter and beyond. All staff are entitled to a free flu jab. If you are a CWP staff member, I do hope you’ve had your jab. Flu can be deadly, and immunisation saves lives.
During Self-Care week (14-20 November), our Recovery Colleges held 17 different sessions designed to help people make positive lifestyle choices. These included advice around mindfulness, anxiety management and “Keeping well and moving forward”, aiming to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding for people to live more fulfilling lives.
We have also been supporting our local health partners with their winter communications, encouraging people to make the right choice with their health decisions. This season puts particular pressure on GPs and A&E departments, but with options such as local pharmacies, NHS 111 and walk-in centres widely accessible, people often have more choice around health support than they initially think. Indeed, it’s estimated that the harsh extremes costs the NHS £1.3 billion every year.
Despite the cold weather, I hope we can all do our bit to spread a bit of warmth to those who need it most. If, like me, you have a lot to be thankful for this winter, please keep an eye out for someone who might not be so lucky – it really could make all the difference.