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Newlife Nurses – here to help support your mental health too

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 13-19, and is aimed at helping to start conversations about people’s mental health, as well urging people to access the information, care and support they need.

At Newlife this is something the charity has been passionate about for a long time through their Nurse Helpline, with nurses ready to lend a listening ear, without any judgement. Consultant Nurse, Karen Dobson, has been with Newlife for 22 years and knows how hard families with disabled children can find everyday life as they juggle the demands of their child, or children’s disabilities, fighting for the services they need, alongside all the other elements of life, which can often lead to them feeling overwhelmed.

Karen said: “All the nurses here know how important it is that families with disabled children have access to the support they need – and that doesn’t just mean practical information about equipment, caring for a child’s unique needs, or helping with benefits, but also how the parent and carer is feeling, how they are coping. The helpline is really here for anything they may need, and we are always happy to help in any way we can.

“The helpline is much more than people think. Parents and carers can call to talk to us about their needs as well as their children’s. It can be about something specific, or it can be just to talk to someone who knows what they are going through, and they can take their time – we don’t put limits on how long calls last or what is discussed.

“We talk to parents who are struggling with their own mental health issues, as well as their child’s disability. We speak to many who have no one else to talk to, or they don’t feel like they can talk honestly with their friends and family, and because of this their mental health has suffered and they are overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to get that far before you call us.

“Sometimes talking things over with someone on the phone is easier than a face-to-face meeting. People can say exactly what’s on their mind, what’s really concerning them, without any judgment. It can help clarify things in their own minds, or even help them see things from a different perspective.

“We also find parents and carers are often so caught up in caring for their children that they forget about themselves until they reach breaking point. We can help them navigate to find the help and support they need, which is something they don’t always know how to do, especially when they are overwhelmed and in survival mode which can means they aren’t able to look further than the moment.

“One mum has spoken to us a number of times about her own mental health battles and feeling that she’s letting down her children, but we can listen, reassure, and validate her – that she really is doing a good job. Our approach is very gentle, and callers often say they feel much lighter, there is a real sense of their relief just to have spoken with someone about their worries or their feelings.

“We also support callers with children who are now beyond our age remit and those whose children who have sadly passed away; we listen and can signpost to further support if necessary.

“The most important thing we can do for those who call us is give them our time – and the whole team are great problem solvers!”

Top Tips

  • Jot down anything you want to remember about developments in your child’s condition as it happens, so it’s easy to remember everything you need to when you are at any appointments, removing the worry about forgetting things.
  • Self-care basics such as sleeping and eating are often pushed to the bottom of the list, and it’s very easy to get caught in a cycle of skipping both of these, especially when you are stressed or overwhelmed. But getting enough sleep and eating regularly will help you cope with everyday life much more easily.
  • Ensure you take regular breaks for yourself – even if it’s just for five minutes here and there. If you can, get out in the fresh air, see friends, or it could be a long bath, a chapter of a book – whatever you can manage as a distraction to help you recharge. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so take the time away without guilt that you should be chasing up appointments or caring for someone else.
  • Don’t fear saying you are struggling or asking for help – it’s not a failure, it’s a win!

You can call the Nurse Helpline on 0800 902 0095, Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm and appointments with Newlife Nurses are available from 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays. To discover more about Newlife’s Nurse Helpline click here.