Our Year of Living Differently

This was the year no one expected. Plans completely derailed, lives turned upside down. People feeling abandoned. So much uncertainty. Unprecedented became the most overused but probably the most accurate word in the dictionary. In the immediate run up to the start of the year we are reporting on – April 2020 to March 2021 we had a taste of what Covid-19 could do. We had moved quickly, like many others,
to remote working and like many others marvelled at the way staff and volunteers responded to the challenges of completely changing the way we did things; whilst still focusing on creating as many accessible routes into our support as we could. We learnt quickly and adapted remarkably smoothly to the strangeness of seeing colleagues in boxes on screens. We knew this ‘new way’ was not great for everyone and inevitably people were going to be left behind.

By April we were relatively settled but had no idea how long we would be in this situation, which caused so much anxiety and disconnection for so many people. There were some of us thinking that we were probably here to the end of the year, but by the autumn probably realised even this was optimistic.

It is quite hard to truly encapsulate the past year – we could talk about what were, in the circumstances, the many positives that we found through having different ways of working thrust upon us… but that does not feel comfortable when we also know that this was a period that saw inequality front and centre and for people digitally excluded, access was quite frankly a nightmare. We know from subsequent research that there are key groups who have been significantly affected by the pandemic; whether that was due to increased poverty from loss of work, loneliness exacerbated to an unprecedented level or lack of access to the basics, such as food and to the services that have often been the lifeline for people. We know that young people, people with existing mental health problems, people in racialised communities and those with low incomes and insecure housing fared worst of all. The removal, so suddenly, of the things people knew and relied on was for some hugely damaging.

There was undoubtedly a huge community response to support our friends, families, neighbours and communities – looking out for each other and coming together, which was incredibly uplifting and important. Some of the key positives for Manchester Mind were that moving to delivery by telephone and other remote means, increased our accessibility. No longer did someone have to travel across town to access an advice drop-in, we were there at the end of the phone. Many people who attended training or groups online reported that it was easier for them. Good Mood Food (our social catering business) initially went out of business, which was really sad to see, but staff and volunteers responded brilliantly to provide over 45,000 meals to people who were isolated as part of the city-wide emergency response. Our allotment (no safer space), absolutely blossomed and underlined the importance of outdoor growing and physical activity as a way of improving mental wellbeing. Our staff came together to volunteer to manage the phones and provide a new Listening Ear Service both for adults and young people.

The year, as we all know, was punctuated by the raising of and then reinstatement of restrictions and this in itself creates anxiety and uncertainty that has an impact on mental health. You can read in this report very personal accounts and experiences of the impact of this global pandemic and the distrust people had of others who seemingly were not following the rules. It was a minefield, for some lockdown eased anxiety, for others it increased. It was certainly not a case of everyone being in the same boat. More, as came to be coined, everyone was in the same storm just in different boats, some of which were better protected than others. To repeat another overused phrase but one that kind of sums things up, it was a roller coaster, both physically and emotionally. In this report there are accounts of how we coped both personally, practically and emotionally during this year of living differently.

We could not have done what we did over the past 12 months without a dedicated and committed staff and volunteer team – all also having to deal with the fall out of living through lockdown and the impact Covid-19 had on them, their family and friends.

Also thank you to our funders – many of who stepped in to give flexibility over current funding streams and with emergency funding that helped many of us get through the year when expected streams of income stopped. Also to those committed fundraisers who did not let a pandemic get in the way of still raising even more vital donations.

Thank you!
Elizabeth Simpson, CEO
Rachel Pearson, Chair of Trustees

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