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Helen’s story: managing mental health during the pandemic

28 April 2021

Our Family Resilience report shows nearly four in ten people say the pandemic has had a negative effect on their mental health. Here we look at how one mum, Helen struggled with hers and how our FamilyLine service, supported by LV= General Insurance has made a difference.

Helen* was anxious about contacting our FamilyLine Service at first.

It was a difficult time for her in general as, like so many of us, she had been furloughed from work and was supporting her 19-year old daughter at home as a single mother.

She said: “It was very hard as, because she’s 19, she doesn’t fall into the category where legally she could stay in both my house and her father’s. It was really tough trying to deal with it and it made all of us – me, my daughter and her father – really anxious.”

This was made more challenging by ongoing struggles relating to her mental health resulting from her treatment as an adopted child.

She said: “I do suffer from depression on and off but I was OK until we went into lockdown – and then it became more difficult. Work’s good for your mind and I didn’t have that to fall back on as I couldn’t go in for six or seven weeks”.

Helen learned about FamilyLine after finding out about it via Family Action’s adoption service PAC-UK, but she was still nervous about calling as she worried about discussing her past.

She said: “Talking about it makes me anxious and rattles me but the lady who took the call was very nice. People only get a snapshot of what you’ve been through and you don’t want to go into it if they’re not kind and understanding… but she was lovely”.

Most people who call FamilyLine receive immediate emotional and practical support over the phone, or call on a number of occasions to address the concerns they have as their situation evolves.

However, after they discussed Helen’s situation, the FamilyLine worker decided it would be useful for her to access longer-term support through regular sessions with a FamilyLine counsellor.

Helen describes this experience as empowering and helped her to pick apart the difficult feelings and fears had remained unresolved since her adoptive mum’s death.

She said: “What you learn as a child is how you learn to see yourself. I didn’t realise that I’d been carrying that around with me and didn’t realise that the things I believed weren’t necessarily true”.

Helen adds that she wouldn’t have been able to afford this counselling herself and felt that the practical focus that FamilyLine counsellors offered appealed to her more than other forms of therapy.

She added: “There’s a formula to this kind of therapy and I stuck to it. My counsellor was very understanding and very gentle but she made me do my homework – it’s a process and she guided me through that process”.

It’s not been easy and Helen says she struggles with conflicted feelings towards her mother, but now feels able to put these in context.

She added: “I struggle with the emotions of realising what I went through, but still miss my adoptive mum sometimes. She did have a hold over me and I’ve been trying to step over that. Counselling helped me to be free of her”.

It’s not been an easy ride and the pandemic has continued to be challenging for Helen but the support FamilyLine provided has helped her to navigate lockdown.

“I would 100 per cent tell people to get in touch with FamilyLine as it was a very positive experience for me – they just listened to me… Not judging. Just listening.”

She added: “It was comforting for me, wobbled me so in a way it was good that I didn’t have to go to work, but it felt good to be getting these feelings out and working through them”.

The therapy has helped Helen identify unhelpful behaviours, process them in a different way and challenge her assumptions.

She added: “Now if I’m thinking in a certain way a little alarm bell rings. I would 100 per cent tell people to get in touch with FamilyLine as it was a very positive experience for me – they just listened to me… Not judging. Just listening”.

“I would 100 per cent tell people to get in touch with FamilyLine as it was a very positive experience for me – they just listened to me… Not judging. Just listening.”

Read our Family Resilience joint report with LV=General Insurance, looking at the impact of COVID-19 and find out more about how we are working together to build stronger families.