The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many people facing mental as well as physical health challenges. Others who have lost friends and relatives in recent months are also having to deal with bereavement – and changes to how they can mark the passing of their loved ones, such as limited attendance numbers at funerals or being unable to say goodbye in person.
Stafford Borough Council was asked to consider how it can support residents during these difficult times at its latest community wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting.
Committee member councillor Louise Nixon said: “I would like to request the committee looks into the whole area of bereavement and loss during this present crisis and beyond.
“Many families during this dreadful pandemic are suffering greatly by not being able to visit relatives in care homes and hospitals. Heartbreakingly, many families cannot even say goodbye when their loved ones’ time comes.
“I believe there are many mental health challenges to be faced in the coming years due to this awful situation. I’d like to ask the committee’s opinion on how Stafford Borough Council can help with this very sensitive and important issue.”
Councillor Mark Winnington, who is involved in a campaign to encourage people to talk more openly about suicide in order to prevent it, said everyone had a part to play in supporting others.
He said: “I think the questions are laudable. We should all care for our neighbours, friends and family.
“A lot of people are really upset and it’s quite hateful the way this virus has affected people’s lives. “I’ve had people come to me who have basically burst into tears because they’re so upset, particularly now with this third lockdown.
“I think it’s not the borough council’s responsibility to do this or the county council’s responsibility to do this – it’s everybody’s responsibility. We should all – as councillors and people – be looking around our neighbours and friends. I’ve been pleased to see this happening over the last few weeks and months and I hope it continues.
“If you do see something or hear something speak to someone. There are officers at the borough, there’s GPs in the health sector, there’s (Councillor) Ann Edgeller who is our champion on mental health. All these people are here to help us.
“Look after your neighbours. If you see anything bad, report it. If you want any help ask someone – it’s as simple as that.
“In terms of mental health and suicide I have set up a group with the fire service and parish council in Gnosall and the surrounding areas. There’s nothing wrong with talking about suicide and death – we’re all going to die at some point.”
Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, said: “I think it’s a really difficult time for many in our communities who have been impacted not just by Covid but by death and not being able to go to funerals or mourn the passing of individuals.
“Covid has a very long set of tentacles that touch more than just those issues. I don’t think anyone on this committee has not had someone they know, maybe close family or friends, who haven’t been touched by this wretched global pandemic.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to support people in their own communities. That’s us as individuals, that’s us as councillors representing our communities and that’s as a council.
“There’s a talk to us page on the borough council’s website that has inordinate amounts of signposting information to try and help people, whether it’s about bereavement, financial management or employment issues. What we’re trying to do is support those in our communities who are also doing similar jobs to what we are.
“Maybe we should look at signposting people to the resources that are already there.”
Anyone experiencing emotional distress can contact Samaritans for a confidential talk at any time of the day for free on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Under 19s can speak to Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk
Organisations offering bereavement support in Stafford Borough include the following:
Stafford Bereavement Loss Support Service: 01785 273768/ http://www.staffordbereavementsupport.org.uk/
A Child of Mine (supports parents who have lost a child): 01785 283434/ 07803 751229/ www.achildofmine.org.uk
Cruse Bereavement South Staffordshire: 01543 433479/ email@example.com
More organisations offering support can also be found at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/bereavement-services-bereavement-support