Plea for more counsellors in Southampton as mental health referrals soar

Plea for more counsellors in Southampton as mental health referrals soar

A Southampton wellbeing charity has put out an urgent plea this month to find 30 Associate Therapists and Practitioners to meet demand for counsellors post-pandemic as mental health referrals soar.

Options Wellbeing Trust, which provides people with professional support covering many life issues, says recently released 2021 data shows mental health services in England received a record 4.3 million referrals.

Claire Trent, Service Manager at the not-for-profit organisation, which has its headquarters and a therapy hub on Shirley Road, explains: “COVID – the uncertainty, the worry and the lockdowns – significantly took its toll on wellbeing in England according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It found, when it analysed NHS Digital data, that there were 3.3 million specific referrals to specialist adult mental health services in 2021, which is the area where our charity works in Southampton, Hampshire and Dorset.

“This is up from a pre-pandemic total in 2019 of 3.7 million. The NHS delivered 1.8 million mental health consultations in December 2021 alone and there are still 1.4 million people out there waiting for treatment, including a proportion in our area.

“The Royal College of Psychiatrists is labelling the pandemic as the ‘biggest hit to mental health in generations’ and it has had and is having a massive impact locally and regionally.

“We’re seeing a much greater demand for the services we deliver and are receiving an uplift in referrals from the NHS, so we’re looking for qualified therapists or practitioners to join our team now to deal with the demand and to help those on waiting lists who need support. Many individual counsellors may be seeing their private work drying up but as we receive a lot of referrals from our partners, who work for and with the NHS, we’re seeing a huge demand still.

“Our services deal with issues connected with loneliness and isolation exacerbated by the restrictions, which are now overflowing into the current phase, post-pandemic, that we’re now going into.

“Also, anxiety has increased as people return to their workplaces without social distancing and masks, leaving home, where they have felt safe, and dealing with being in close contact with colleagues once again.

“We’re also hearing from people about how uncertain they feel about potential new hybrid working patterns. Plus, there’s greater demand for issues related to self-harm, trauma and bereavement due to illness, long Covid and pandemic-related deaths. As well as, alcohol and gambling issues, which lockdowns and restrictions may have, to some extent, shielded people from, as they have gone on behind closed doors.

“Relationships have suffered in the past two years too and breakdowns are rising, so we’re counselling a lot more people, who, in some cases, have been married or with their partner for decades and are now finding themselves moving out of their family home, missing their children and struggling financially and emotionally.

“Now there are new anxieties related to the war in Ukraine that are coming through too – the potential impact on everyone and financial worries about rising costs. As a result of all this, we’re seeing many more requests from people who desperately need our professional support.

“We’re also now seeing demand for face-to-face and client evening appointments, as individuals return to their pre-pandemic work life. Put all this together, and locally and regionally we’re mirroring the figures being seen across England, so we’re looking for Associate Therapists and Practitioners to join our friendly and supportive community.

“Anyone who is a qualified therapist or practitioner and registered with a recognised professional body such as BACP, UKRCP, CA, ANLP & NCS, is invited to get in touch to find out more.”

Options Wellbeing is looking to fill self-employed roles. Applicants are asked to commit to a minimum of four hours per week during the daytime and one evening per week.

Claire adds: “We’re here for anyone who needs our support and are not for profit. We urgently need counsellors who have experience working with trauma, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, relationship, alcohol and gambling issues.”

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