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Source: City of Oxford

Published: Thursday, 26th November 2020

Oxford City Council has launched a range of initiatives to help support the mental health of the city’s community members during the winter period.

The outbreak of Covid-19 and resulting social distancing measures have led to an increase in mental health problems, with 1 in 4 adults reporting suffering from lonelinessAccording to MIND, the mental health charity, ‘prioritising mental health has never been more critical than it is now’.

In response to this considerable challenge, Oxford City Council has modified the way its Contact Centre will operate to support people during the coronavirus crisis.  The Contact Centre now provides a single point of contact for vulnerable people to request any support they may require, and to find support to cope with potential mental health impacts as a result of feeling isolated.

In Oxford, the City Council and the voluntary organisation Oxford Hub have partnered to make sure help is getting to those in need of this extra support. For people needing general but not urgent support, they can log their details and the kind of support needed on the Oxford Together website.

For those with more urgent mental health support needs, the City Council’s Contact Centre team can help.  Their number is 01865 249 811 or an online form is available at www.oxford.gov.uk/CommunityAssistance

Whilst group activities are not currently allowed and our facilities are currently closed there are still a variety of options for people of all ages, abilities and interests to get moving more:

  • GO Active Outdoors – a webpage that brings together information on ideas on where and how to get active outdoors in your area of the city.
  • Activity Hub – a comprehensive online catalogue of ideas to help people move more and stay well with home and garden-based activities, including a section on mental health & wellbeing.

The Council is also signposting people to the following online resources to help bolster mental health:

  • Street Tag – a fantastic new free app where people collect virtual tags as they walk, run or cycle around the county.  It contains an Oxfordshire schools and a community leader board where people can compete with or against their families, friends, colleagues or school friends.
  • MIND highlight the benefits of physical activity on mental health.  Releasing endorphins, the ‘happy hormone’, is great for improving mood, reducing stress & anxiety, managing depression, improving sleep and enables people to ‘think clearer’.  Benefits are increased if physical activity is outdoors and/or with other people due to vitamin D, connecting with the environment and local community. Often the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is lower when activities are done outside too, meaning it feels easier!

Community volunteers are encouraged to stay connected with vulnerable and older people in Oxford, who may otherwise be isolated and suffer loneliness. Please see the Activity Hub’s ‘Staying Connected’ page for further advice.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing measures have posed a huge challenge to our mental health, and it’s vital that we do what we can to take care of our mental and physical wellbeing, especially in this winter period.

I would urge everyone in Oxford to make the most of the resources available and to support others as and where we can.  Isolation and loneliness are very detrimental to mental health, and we hope that our initiatives will help community members to stay connected at this difficult time.

Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities

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