From the start of the coronavirus outbreak we (at Mapesbury Mutual Aid) have received calls from residents struggling with self-isolation and in need of a friendly ear. Some residents just wanted to chat and expressed reassurance knowing that we were here should they need help with shopping

and accessing essentials, amongst other things.

We also received calls from residents with more challenging needs, with some phoning up in mental distress. Knowing how to appropriately escalate these calls has been challenging and, as a result, a smaller

mental health working group was formed, which included local mental health professionals of different backgrounds (including psychiatry, nursing, counselling and research). This meant that call handlers could direct mental health questions and concerns to this group as and when they arose, and seek the advice of mental health specialists in the area who know about the local services available. This working group collaborated to develop a mental health call handler telephone prompt to help phone coordinators signpost existing services to callers.

For many, the isolation of lockdown has brought on great loneliness and exacerbated underlying mental health issues. In recognition of this, volunteers have started to think about ways of supporting and connecting people. For example, a Mapesbury Mutual Aid plant gifting scheme was set up by a local volunteer, Roxy (pictured here) who wanted to gift houseplants to residents who might be struggling with loneliness whilst self-

isolating, in order to bring some joy and nature into people’s homes. Through the Mutual Aid Food Willesden (MAFW) and Mapesbury Mutual Aid volunteers, over 100 plants have been gifted to local residents. Feedback from beneficiaries has been really positive so far, with many saying how grateful they are for their new houseplant. One lady said how it makes her happy every time she wakes up and looks at her plant. There is growing evidence that plants can have numerous health benefits – they have been shown to lower levels of physiological and psychological stress1; increase attentiveness and memory; increase productivity; boost mood and creativity. This plant gifting scheme has proven to be a great success and we hope it will be an ongoing project in the area.

Aneeka Verma & Tatiana Los


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