The effect of Covid-19 on mental health in the Harrogate district

28 August 2020

The Covid-19 virus outbreak has had a devastating effect on the lives of people experiencing mental health problems and psychological distress. 65% of adults over 25 and 75% of young people with an existing mental health problem reported worse mental health (The Mental Health Emergency, Mind, June 2020).

Harrogate charity, Wellspring Therapy and Training, has been providing much-needed support through these extremely challenging times. Founded in 2003, Wellspring seeks to restore hope, develop resilience, and facilitate positive change in the lives of children and adults, who are suffering from emotional distress. The charity does this by providing affordable, professional counselling and promoting good mental health through groupwork, education, and training.

Whilst Wellspring experienced an initial drop in referrals March-June, as people managed lockdown, in recent months, the counselling referral rates have rocketed, increasing by 44%, with the charity expecting this to continue to rise. The pandemic has not only affected those with a history of poor mental health, but it has also led to an increase in the psychological distress of many others in our community.

When lockdown was implemented, Wellspring moved quickly, setting up most of their services to be delivered online. Throughout this period, the Wellspring team have successfully and safely offered young people and adults video and telephone counselling. Many have said this support has been invaluable to them in this time of crisis.

At a time when people may be struggling financially, whether it’s through job losses or pay-cuts, affordable counselling is more important than ever. Most private counselling typically costs between £40-60 for each session, but it is often the case that people are simply unable to afford this. There is also a lack of support available through local health services, with 50% of Wellspring’s referrals coming from NHS teams and professionals. What makes Wellspring’s counselling work unique, is that they offer high quality, long-term counselling at a price chosen by each individual, according to their situation; this could be for as little as £5.00.

Freya is one of Wellspring’s clients who received counselling throughout lockdown. She shared her story in the hope that it would encourage others to find the support they need.

Freya said:

My husband had suddenly been diagnosed with a serious illness a couple of years ago. It was an ongoing condition and the process of finding the right treatment was stressful.

It got to the point where I was feeling ‘full up’ with unprocessed events and emotions. I didn’t feel I was able to talk it through with friends, because it felt like it was all too much. I wanted to protect my husband, so I wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know him. I realised I needed a safe space.

I also knew that I wasn’t good at expressing my feelings. All these emotions were sitting there like a great weight, but not going anywhere. I lived with this sadness and anxiety, and any kind of responsibility overwhelmed me. Because it had been such a responsibility dealing with my husband’s illness, especially as the illness was so unpredictable, it left me feeling like I couldn’t deal with any more responsibility.

After my first counselling session at Wellspring, I came away with such a sense of relief and gratitude. I had really needed to tell someone the details of the events of his illness, and my counsellor created such a safe place where I could tell my story. Throughout my sessions, she was a very kind and supportive person. She helped me to identify my feelings. I learnt to recognise when my emotions were building up inside me, and she helped me to carefully unpack incidents from my past that were affecting my present. My counsellor gave me the tools I needed to help with my life going forward.

I started my sessions in January, and we had some sessions in person. I found the centre was a very easy place to come to, especially when you’re new and you’re not sure what to expect. You could go in and just sit there quietly to wait for your session.

Then when lockdown happened, we ended up doing video calls instead. The online side of things was fine. We had to get used to it at first, but it was all OK. It was good to be able to see my counsellor on the video call.

I finished my counselling sessions in May, which was quite a long time, but it was worth it. I feel I’m in a different place now. It’s lifted so much of the pressure and the anxiety. I also think I’m more able to deal with things when I do experience difficult emotions now. Right the way through my sessions, I didn’t have any sense of being able to look beyond where I was, but now I can finally look beyond. I am able to move forwards and think about the future. I’d highly recommend Wellspring and encourage anyone weighed down by life’s pressures to get in touch and see a counsellor. It’s a safe place.

Wellspring will continue to work online, whilst also planning how to safely resume their face-to-face work in the autumn. The team at Wellspring are passionate about supporting people to find their way out of darkness and despair into new-found hope and freedom.

If you would like to know more about Wellspring’s work and how you can volunteer or financially support their work, please see their website for more details: or contact the office: 01423 881881,

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