Looking after yourself during Covid-19

Looking after yourself during Covid-19

We have heard many times how Covid-19 is most affecting people with underlying physical health conditions. Whilst focussing on our physical health must be a priority, it is also essential that we look after our mental health. You may be feeling a range of emotions at the moment from being worried about a loved one and your health to boredom and loneliness from staying at home. All emotions are OK and everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Hold on to the fact that this situation is short-term and most of the time, these uncomfortable feelings should pass.

Have you thought about the effect it could be having on your overall wellbeing?

Here are a few handy tips on caring for yourself during this time.

  • Routine, Routine, Routine…

We have all been advised to stay at home when we can during this time. Some of us may be going to work still, however for a lot of us that means working from home. This disturbance and change in lifestyle can cause anxiety and stress.  Familiarity and clear structure often helps manage anxiety and will help you adapt more quickly to this dramatic change.

Try to create a clear distinction between your work and non-work time throughout the day. Consider creating a separate work space in a specific area in your home. That way, you only spend time there whilst you are working and are able to completely leave work behind when you finish. This will help you switch off at the end of the day and create a proper work-life balance.

There may be the danger that you work longer hours, mainly to try and get work completed, but secondly as there is no one there to keep an eye on you to remind you it’s home time! This may lead to work burnout and negatively impact on your wellbeing.  Set times to how long you are going to spend on a task and set an alarm clock to ensure you finish on time. Do not blur your work-life balance!

Ensure you are taking regular breaks throughout the day and step away from that laptop! Stretch your legs, clear your head and do something you enjoy (not work related) this will ultimately lead to better work ethics but more importantly, help you to de-stress!

  • Self-care

Just because you aren’t going out on the town and seeing friends, it doesn’t mean you can’t get dressed up! Whilst staying at home it is even more important to look after yourself, as we all know a happy body leads to a happy mind.

Get dressed! Sounds simple however staying at home may tempt you to stay in your pyjamas all day. A change of clothes, even if it is in to something comfortable like sweat pants, will help you feel refreshed, more productive and hopefully more motivated.

Do your hair, apply make-up, paint your nails or have a shave – this may help you feel to more normal and relaxed in these uncertain times. Moreover, everyone deserves a bit of pampering!

Find ways to be kind to yourself – we can all be tough on ourselves, especially in uncontrollable circumstances like these. Recognise that you are doing the best you can and it is ok to feel overwhelmed, worried or low.

  • Stay Connected

If you are feeling overwhelmed it is important you reach out and contact others. No matter how introverted or extroverted you are, some sense of connection is important for both our mental and physical health. We may not be able to go out and socialise with our friends and family at present, but we can still reach out. Texts are great, but pick up the phone and speak to someone.  Use this opportunity to catch up with that friend you haven’t spoken to in months.  Chances are, they will be free and will really appreciate hearing from you!

There are lots of great virtual forums available now to connect you with your friends and loved ones. The other night I set up an online quiz with a group of friends over facetime. It was a great way of feeling connected, seeing my friends and taking my mind off being at home.

If you do not feel you can open up to friends or loved ones, we have included plenty of resources below you can contact for support.

We may have to be in social isolation but we do not need to feel alone. We are all in this together.

  • Unplug and Get Creative

I know I just said stay connected – however there are times when it is healthy to disconnect!  Everyone across the world is talking about Covid 19 – switch off the news, log out of social media and turn off your devices to help you get some well-deserved time away.

Use this chance to get creative and try some new activities. Starting new things and getting inventive is a brilliant way of distracting your mind, keeping spirits up and relaxing.  Start that DIY project you have been putting off, get those arts and crafts out, keep a diary, or even make a time capsule! Put together a collection of memories, items and photos to bury in the garden (or stash away if you prefer) to open in ten years – when all of this is over and a distant nightmare!

Try making new and healthy recipes. Not only will this be a welcoming treat for your body, but will help give your day variety.

If you are not feeling creative, you can always give your house a spring clean. Therapeutic, productive and you will automatically feel better in a fresh and sparkling home.

  • Stay Active

Now that we are spending a significant amount of time at home, it is so important that we try and avoid cabin fever. The Government have advised that we can still go out once a day for one form of exercise and it is crucial that we do so. Take a walk, jog or even cycle to clear the mind and break up your day. If you are feeling particularly adventurous or don’t want to venture away from the house, why not try a marathon in your garden…. I would definitely sponsor you!

Fresh air and exercise is fundamental for staying well both mentally and physically and will help you not feel so stuck in your home.

  • Be Mindful

Manage uncertainty and anxiety by staying in the present. Paying attention to our thoughts and feelings has been proven to help reduce the effects of stress. Remember to take each day at a time and try and focus on things you can control.

Practising mindfulness can be great tool in helping you de-stress and again, there are a lot of resources available to support you with these techniques.


Helpful Resources

  • MIND

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 6pm).





A voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm).

Website: www.nopanic.org.uk



24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email

Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk


  • CALM

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35

Phone: 0800 585858 (daily, 5pm to midnight)

Website: www.thecalmzone.net



Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24 hour helpline)

Website: www.samaritans.org.uk



Unmind is a mental health platform that empowers staff to proactively improve their mental wellbeing. They are offering free access to NHS staff until end of December 2020.

How NHS staff can get access

  1. Go to nhs.unmind.com/signup
  2. Sign up with your NHS email address
  3. Download the Unmind app from your appstore – your organisation name is NHS.



Headspace is a science-backed app in mindfulness and meditation, providing unique tools and resources to help reduce stress, build resilience, and aid better sleep.

They are offering free access to all NHS staff with an NHS email address until 31 December, active now.

How NHS staff can get access

  1. Go to https://www.headspace.com/nhs and select clinical or non-clinical staff to start enrolling
  2. You will need to use your NHS email address to sign up


  • SLEEPIO AND DAYLIGHT (developed by Big Health):

Sleepio is a clinically-evidenced sleep improvement programme that is fully automated and highly personalised, using cognitive behavioural techniques to help improve poor sleep.

Free access to Sleepio for all NHS staff is active now until 31 December.

Daylight is a smartphone-based app that provides help to people experiencing symptoms of worry and anxiety, using evidence-based cognitive behavioural techniques, voice and animation.

Free access to Daylight is active now until 31 December.


How NHS staff can get access

How to access Sleepio

  1. Visit sleepio.com/redeem on your laptop or desktop computer
  2. Enter redeem code NHS2020 and sign up for an account using your name and email address
  3. Complete the sleep test
  4. Get started!

How to access Daylight

  1. Click on the following link: daylight.com/NHSaccess
  2. Answer a few short questions to tailor the programme to you
  3. Sign up for an account using your name and email address
  4. Download the Daylight smartphone app (search ‘Daylight – Worry Less’)
  5. Get started!

Every Mind Matters – Mindful breathing exercise video on youtube.


Thank you Scarlett for writing this useful blog post!


Our Well-being Week

Langley Green Hospital Wellbeing Week


Langley Green Hospital is a psychiatric hospital based in Crawley, West Sussex. The hospital is part of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.


Langley Green Hospital consists of:-

  • Jade Ward- 19-bedded ward for service users of working age (18-65 years old).
  • Coral Ward- 19-bedded ward for service users of working age (18-65 years old).
  • Opal Ward- 19-bedded ward for service users (ageless) experiencing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and psychosis.
  • Amber Ward- 12-bedded intensive care unit (PICU). There is a 136 suite attached to this ward.
  • The Crisis Team are based at Langley Green Hospital. They offer a 7-day service for service users, to prevent admission and support when stepping down into the community.
  • The Acute Day Service are also based at the hospital whom offer a 4 week programme for service users.

We have service leaders admitted from Crawley, Horsham, Mid Sussex, some parts of East Sussex and Surrey.


There are approximately 150 staff working at Langley Green Hospital. These staff members consist of  Psychiatrists, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers, Support Workers, Peer Support Workers and Administrative staff.

It is a well known fact that staff sickness worsens around the third week of January, commonly known as ‘Blue Monday’. Langley Green Hospital was not exempt from this ; showing an increase in staff sickness from the periods of Dec– Jan (18-19).


In preparation for this sickness trend, we run Staff Wellbeing Matters ‘tea and chats’ with staff and used this as a platform for staff to tell us what is working well, what is not working well and how can we best support them with their overall wellbeing, in turn supporting them in their role. We run these sessions over a period of three months and met 42  staff members.


We used the well known QI methodology, nominal group technique, and put staff feedback into themes. These themes were:-

1) Staff wanted opportunities to meet and get to know their colleagues who work at Langley Green Hospital but not necessarily work within their ward/team.

2) Staff members wanted opportunities to focus on their   physical health whilst working around their working day/shift.

Alongside this, we also sent out a Survey Monkey and got 29 staff respond. This survey asked staff what physical health activities they would like offered to them, that will help improve their well-being. This was a longer term goal, in ensuring we were able to     provide activities to staff that will sustain the Langley Green Hospital well-being initiative.

The graphs below illustrates the staff groups who responded and the types of activities they would like to attend.

chart 1chart 2





We run a Wellbeing Week which was mainly open to staff, however, with the ethos of being ‘open and honest’, we invited service users and carers to join us in the Wellbeing Week activities.

The week had a combination of physical and mental wellbeing activities, that catered for all people. We also provided activities that allowed both ‘day’ shift staff and ward staff to access, within their busy days.  We also used our good relationships with our external partners, such as Crawley Wellbeing, Crawley Football Club and Park Run, to make those links for staff and provide a sustainable approach to our staff members wellbeing.

Therefore, we want to use the results of the staff Survey  Monkey and start running a yoga and badminton session that will run on different days and time, in order to meet the needs of the ‘day’ shift staff and the ward staff. Alongside this, we are going to further promote the gym, already in situ at Langley Green Hospital, to staff, so they can utilise these facilities throughout the day or night.

There are already plans in place to have a continued programme of ‘tea and chats’, so staff can meet with the Clinical Lead Nurse Manager and/or the management team, and raise their concerns, promote what is going well or identify any further  changes needed for us to better support staff.



The Wellbeing Week has been to catalyst for us to provide a more sustainable approach to staff wellbeing; ensuring that staff are looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.

Therefore, we want to use the results of the staff Survey     Monkey and start running a yoga and badminton session that will run on different days and time, in order to meet the needs of the ‘day’ shift staff and the ward staff. Alongside this, we are going to further promote the gym, already in situ at Langley Green Hospital, to staff, so they can utilise these facilities throughout the day or night.

There are already plans in place to have a continued programme of ‘tea and chats’, so staff can meet with the Clinical Lead Nurse Manager and/or the management team, and raise their concerns, promote what is going well or identify any further  changes needed for us to better support staff.

Our hospital Gym
Tilgate Parkrun 5k- well done guys!











We run a Wellbeing Week which was mainly open to staff, however, with the ethos of being ‘open and honest’, we invited service users and carers to join us in the Wellbeing Week activities.

The week had a combination of physical and mental wellbeing activities, that catered for all      people. We also provided activities that allowed both ‘day’ shift staff and ward staff to access, within their busy days.  We also used our good relationships with our external partners, such as Crawley Wellbeing, Crawley Football Club and Park Run, to make those links for staff and provide a sustainable approach to our staff members wellbeing.










Climbing Kilimanjaro

Some people have to climb a mountain every day!

Mental health can often feel like a mountain. My son has been struggling with mental illness for a number of years and has received the most wonderful care along his journey, particularly whilst in Langley Green Hospital and then in Shepherd House Recovery Unit.

For some time I had wanted to find some way of giving back to these two places that have done so much for my son, and the rest of our family, through his worst times. It might sound dramatic to those that don’t know our journey, but I honestly feel that they saved his life.

My friend and I had been talking about taking on a significant life challenge for a while. After discussing various possibilities, we decided upon climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. So, we found a reputable organisation that we trusted and with great trepidation we signed up.

I quickly realised this was just the opportunity I needed to be able to give back to the places I’m so grateful to. So, I spoke to the lovely Sarah from Heads On explaining what I was hoping to do and set up my JustGiving page. There was no going back from this point; I would be reaching the top of that mountain no matter what it took!

Training and preparation was at the forefront of my mind for the months that followed. This meant keeping up with my Bootcamp classes, as well as fitting in long walks up hills… lots of hills. We became very familiar with Box Hill, the Seven Sisters and Snowdon. I also had to focus on ticking off the extensive kit list we’d been sent, so I began the quest of scouring outdoor retailers and eBay for bargains.

Time seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, it was October. The donations to my JustGiving page had surpassed anything I’d ever expected resulting in me doubling my target. The physical and emotional support I received from family, friends and work colleagues was incredible and really helped fuel my determination.

The morning of the 17th October was very surreal. My first thought as I woke was, “I’m going to climb my mountain today… Today!” My bag and boots were sitting there looking at me, all ready and waiting. It seemed very strange to be going into work as normal when such a huge event was looming. My mountain buddy, Claire, messaged to check up on me as I had been pretty poorly during the week before with laryngitis. That day at work was a bit of a blur, as I was on countdown until 4pm.

Heathrow Terminal 4 was where we got our first glimpse of the group that would become our climbing family for the next 9 days. It was a larger group than I was expecting, 25 of us in total, as well as the group leader and group medic. Someone once said to me that the difference between a group and a team is that a group is a collection of people, whereas a team is that same collection of people who are working together on a common goal. This was to be proven very true over the next few days; this collection of complete strangers would certainly prove to become a very strong team in a very short space of time.

After transfer from the airport we arrived at our hotel in Moshi. We were told that you could normally see Kilimanjaro from there but the weather was so appalling that all we could see was rain and clouds. Here we had a welcome briefing where introductions were made and an important kit check was carried out. I was still not feeling 100% with my throat infection but was sure that with another 24 hours of antibiotics inside me I’d be good to go in the morning. We tried to get a good night’s sleep in, but with the start of our climb looming the next morning, my head was buzzing with all the thoughts of the adventure to come.


We all loaded into the buses to drive to the entrance gates of the Kilimanjaro National Park. Here we signed into the park and picked up all of our support crew and equipment. It’s amazing how many mountain guides, cooks and porters a group of our size needed. I think there were about 90 in all! From here we drove to the Lemosho gate where our climb would begin. The previous day’s rain had taken its toll on the dirt roads, resulting in our bus becoming well and truly stuck in the mud. After all the porters and local farmers came to our aid – pushing, pulling, digging and filling in the deepest ruts with branches and grasses from the sides of the road, we finally got going again to huge cheers all around.

Due to this delay we began our first days of walking rather late. Despite this morale was good and there was an excited buzz around the group. This part of the trek was through the lush vegetation of the rainforest which was extra wet and muddy due to the recent heavy rainfall.

We arrived at our first camp just after dark with the help of our head torches. It was a good feeling to enter the camp after a long day. We had our first experience of dinner on the mountain. The cooks were miracle workers; how they cooked such wonderful meals on the side of a mountain was incredible. It was then time to familiarise ourselves with our tents, which we would be relying on for protection from the elements for the next 6 nights. They proved rather cosy for 2 people, but a nice relief to take our boots off and rest.


We had a rather early morning wakeup call from the monkeys in the nearby forest, before our scheduled 5am wake up call. After a good breakfast, we began our climb. We were faced with an 11 hours trek, across the Shira Plateau, so our bags were pretty heavy with our full 3 litre bladder packs. Sunday was a tough day. The morning’s climb was hard but we managed it well. At the lunch stop I had a wave of nausea that I couldn’t shift; I struggled to eat my rations of fruit pastilles and chocolate.

The afternoon was slow and the altitude was noticeable; we were up to about 3,500 metres by the time we reached camp. As if on cue, the clouds started to break, giving us our first glimpse of the summit. It was absolutely amazing with the sun glistening off the snow-topped peak. It still seemed to be towering over us and very much in the distance though. That night I fell into my bed feeling totally shattered, dizzy and sick. I don’t think it took me long to get to sleep that night!


Never underestimate the power of Marmite! I had taken some individual sachets with me and they were very happily received by all at breakfast, especially those struggling with their appetites. It was yet another early start, with another full day of walking.

The transformation of the landscape as we ascended was amazing. Monday’s climb was through the most barren lands I have ever seen – it can only be described as a lunar landscape complete with craters scarring the earth. This was also dusted with pockets of snow, which was quite magical.

Monday was probably my worst day so far in regard to sickness. I felt so weak with absolutely no energy at all. With our highest point of the day at an altitude of 4,630 metres, I wasn’t the only one to be feeling the effects. I think everyone was happy to get to camp that night.


We had a big day ahead of us with our first real taste of climbing, or scrambling, up the volcanic rocks of the Barranco Wall. I felt so ill that morning and couldn’t see how I was going to even pack up the tent, let alone face 6 hours of rock climbing. I managed to summon up energy, helped by great encouragement from Claire and a number of the others, and I set off with the rest of the group. After a while, and thankfully just in time, my nausea lifted, giving me back some much needed energy. Today we really saw a lot of teamwork and bonding going on, with the stronger members giving true support and encouragement towards the less strong ones, which was so refreshing to witness. We arrived at our camp mid-afternoon for a hugely welcome hot meal and an early night. The nights were getting noticeably colder with the tents freezing overnight, which made getting up for a midnight wee even more challenging than normal!


We made our way to our base camp. We had a shorter trek of only 5 or 6 hours, reaching our camp at lunchtime. We needed to add layers as the weather was starting to get pretty harsh. We all retreated into our tents by around 6pm in preparation for our summit climb starting at 12.30am. I went to bed feeling both emotional and terrified, but I knew that no matter what I was faced with the next day I HAD to reach that summit!


Not the best start as somehow we were missed out of the wake up round. The first Claire and I heard was everybody getting ready to go. We missed breakfast and had to get ready in such a rush that we weren’t emotionally set at all. The weather was horrendous from the off, with winds of 60km/hr frequently gusting to 80 km/hr. Looking ahead and behind at the long line of head-torches silently and slowly making their way forward was quite eerie. Conversation was virtually impossible at that altitude with every effort being put into placing one foot in front of the other. This was the toughest day of the whole climb and we did the steepest and most demanding section through the night. I think I survived by concentrating on the set of boots walking in front of me and matching my steps to theirs. “One foot in front of the other, just put one foot in front of the other”, I kept repeating in my head. After several hours a beautiful red glow eased into the horizon; sunrise had never been more welcomed. We still had to fight against the wind for a few more hours, trudging through thick snow as we neared the summit. When I finally saw the summit sign I couldn’t quite believe that I’d made it 5895 metres above the plains of Africa. Unfortunately, with the snow running into the clouds, all we could see was whiteness in every direction!

I don’t remember much of the descent, only that I was so elated that I’d reached my goal that I really didn’t care what happened now! We had several hours of steep slopes downward through rocks and scree which was quite gruelling and our knees were complaining well before the end. By the time we reached our camp for that night we had been walking for over 15 hours. Moral amongst the team was high and being at a much lower altitude again, people were feeling better. For the third time in the trek the chefs managed to produce a magnificent birthday cake for one of the team; Mary Berry would definitely be impressed! How they did that up a mountain I’ll never know!


After breakfast we continued our descent, now through the rainforest. The weather was warming up the lower we got and the pace showed our eagerness to reach the base. As we rounded the final bend in the track we were greeted by all the porters singing, dancing and congratulating us for completing the climb. It was an amazing feeling; all our team linked arms and walked through the gate together, joined physically and mentally by the journey we’d all just travelled together. Pure joint elation!


You can still donate to Becca by clicking HERE

Well done Becca we think you are amazing and we can’t wait to see what projects will come from this! Thank you so much, Langley Green

A Journey of Recovery

Hello. My name is Sarah. A few days before Christmas last year, 2018, I found myself at City Airport wheeling two big bags to a stop in the middle of the departure lounge. I was meant to be flying that morning to Ibiza for some weeks of rest and restoration at a yoga meditation and rehabilitation centre. My heart was beating very fast and felt swollen and throbbing inside my chest and I felt breathless. Seeing me standing stranded and immobile, a kindly first aid nurse approached me and brought me some water and offered to escort me to a quiet room.


As we walked towards the first aid room we passed two police officers. I approached one of them and asked to speak with him  in confidence so the officers followed me into the room. There I felt a sudden need to ‘confess all’, to hand myself over to the police. In my mind I felt sure that my phone was being bugged and that my ex husband was monitoring my calls and that the police were poised to arrest me at the security gates very soon. Better to hand myself over and confess all and beg them to take me to a cell. I had no clear sense of my crime, of what I had done wrong, only that they were definitely on my trail and about to swoop in.


The two officers were gentle and kind. They listened patiently to all my anxiety and confusion. After a few basic medical checks on my heart they explained gently that while they thought I definitely had done nothing wrong, to be on the safe side they would like to take me into an ambulance where a doctor could assess me. They made it clear that my flight to Ibiza would have to wait for another day.


The ambulance doctor and paramedic checked me over and then drove me to Newham Hospital where I had a conversation with the duty psychiatrist. He found nothing intrinsically wrong with me so later that afternoon I arrived home in my own town in Surrey, a bit dazed and worn out. The community health team met with me and offered to come and visit me at home daily over Christmas so they could keep an eye on me.


Over the next couple of days things slid downhill. I was hardly sleeping and I felt nervous about using my car to get to the shops (I lived three miles out of town) to buy food. I paced around in my sitting room and could not sit still at all and I kept my two suitcases packed ‘just in case’ I might be able to fly out to Ibiza one morning soon.


On Christmas Eve in the afternoon the community health team brought a psychiatrist with them. They were concerned about how I was going to manage over the festive period out here in the country and several miles from shops and friends. The psychiatrist suggested quietly that I might find it a bit of a relief to go into hospital for a few days. There I would be able to catch up on sleep and enjoy three good meals a day and have nurses on hand to talk with when I felt anxious or panicky with racing thoughts. Something inside me sort of slumped and melted at his offer of a bed, and without much resistance I agreed to go. I realised how very very tired out I was.


An occupational therapist generously offered to give me a lift to Langley Green in her car (there were no local beds available in Surrey at teatime on the day before Christmas). Her car was full of brightly wrapped presents for her children and family and festive snacks. She gave me a packet of Wotsits which I ate slowly as we drove through the Sussex countryside. Everything felt surreal and strange to me.


Arriving at Coral Ward, two lovely and kind junior doctors, Josh and Jenna, and a friendly nurse called Daisy, greeted me and interviewed me to get some background. They also checked my heart and pulse and blood pressure. Half an hour later I found myself stepping quietly into the main gathering space on the ward where several of my fellow patients were sitting in chairs some of them in Christmasy jumpers chatting and enjoying chocolates from a big tub of Celebrations.


My phone charging cable and all plastics from my luggage and my hairdryer were all taken from me and placed in a secure room. My room had a peephole in the door so that staff members would be able to monitor me all through the night. Everybody was very kind to me. A lovely night shift health care assistant called Crayton had a chat with me that night about my motivation for getting well again and about the ways I hoped to participate and engage with my peers. He and I are both fans of Superdry hoodies which gave us another point of connection and sharing!.


In my first week on Coral, I was really very unwell. I was convinced that my fellow patients were not really patients but rather undercover police officer actors who had been brought in to cross examine me and drive me into a corner and find me guilty and that then I would be sent to a high security prison. Whenever the breaking news headlines were read out on the television news I would clench my whole body up and wait in dread to hear my crimes and shocking story exposed to the world.I paced up and down, up and down, and could not sit still. I phoned my mother in a state of high alert several times begging her to come and take me away from this place where I truly believed staff and patients alike were in on a plot to chase me down and either rob me of all my money or more likely under cover of night do away with me in a quiet back alley way and dispose of my body leaving no trace. I thought that another Sarah had stolen my identity and that no one would ever believe that I had been married to my husband or at university studying English in the 1990s.


Thank God for the patient and compassionate gentle slow containing of me that the staff did during those first two weeks of my four week inpatient stay. They communicated regularly with my mother. She was a star in coming down on a long circuitous train and bus journey via Gatwick Airport from South London to see me each week. My ex husband Alan was a lovely and regular visitor too. My mother wrote to the psychiatrist in charge of my care so that everyone could ‘sing from the same hymnsheet’ and she wanted him to know just how unwell I’d become immediately prior to admission. She did not want me to be released too fast before some real healing had had time to happen.


Little by little, I started to relax and settle down into myself. The catering manager Raymond and his cheery assistant Collette made me feel cosy and cared for as they dispensed big bowls of steaming hot porridge to us all in the mornings and tasty soup and sandwiches at lunchtime and robust evening meals. I settled into the gentle daily rhythm. In the evenings a kind health care assistant would go into the kitchen and bring out special snacks for us such as fruit yoghurts and biscuits, and we would have a ‘hot chocolate huddle’ each evening too.


I started to feel safe there. One evening I kind of fell naturally into conversation with two of my fellow patients, a young guy of 21 and a woman in her mid 20s, and I found that actually I liked them and we had lots to talk about and I found myself laughing and feeling glad to be alive. The woman (I have changed her name to Sharon) loved writing and was crafting a fairytale short story on her laptop. She showed me a section of it shyly. The young guy told me he’d been watching me and that he thought I was ‘kind of cool’ and that he’d like to be my friend. Then they shared some sweets with me. I felt genuinely happy there and then that evening. All sitting round a little table in our PJs. It felt like childhood friendship.


I started noticing that the staff perhaps were not out to get me. I started seeing evidence every moment of small acts of genuine kindness happening all around me. A health care assistant had carefully put aside and reserved a favourite pudding for a patient who had been on day leave and would not be getting back til after supper. A nurse murmured reassuringly to a patient who was tearful and distressed, soothing her instinctively like a mother with her child. I noticed that the staff team were beautifully attentive to each others needs and that they communicated openly and honestly amongst themselves. They seemed actually delighted and happy to be part of the team and working here on Coral. There was gentle laughter and fun in the atmosphere.


The world began to move from black and white into technicolour for me. There was music on the ward and I would say a key aspect of my healing there was when a team of two musicians from MUSIC IN DETENTION arrived one Wednesday afternoon to begin a six week song writing workshop with us, linked to the asylum seekers’ detention centre near Gatwick Airport.I have always loved singing and as soon as I opened my voice in the gym that afternoon I started feeling genuinely alive and happy to be alive again. It was awesome ‘jamming’ with my fellow patient Matthew (I have changed his name) who it turned out was an amazingly gifted rap artist and when we all did drumming in rhythm together and sang our own lyrics over the top of the beat I just enjoyed a wonderful experience of coming into community with my fellow human beings. Truly, we were in this journey of our lives on our individual roads and here coming together to encourage and celebrate and give hope to each other.


Those music sessions were a JOY and it was wonderful to see the hospital occupational therapists and Ellie our lovely Coral ward activities coordinator coming down every session without fail to watch and enthuse and cheer us on. They made our day in doing that. I remember a new patient came down to join us one afternoon and she declared to me, ‘Sarah, I had goose bumps the whole time you were singing. You sing like an angel or like a choir boy! Beau-ti-fuuul!’. In saying that somehow she was restoring me to my real and well self. I felt playful and enthusiastic and privileged to be part of that project.


Meanwhile I was enjoying friendship with Sharon. I am a keen country walker and as we were both informal patients and allowed to go out I invited her to join me on a walk. Somehow we stumbled on a lovely country bridleway and footpath route that took us deep into the country and into mud and green fields and it did us so much good. Sometimes we would break into a run for the sheer fun of it! We sang as we walked along. And had great chats about every area of our lives. On the way home we would stop in a little park with a childrens playground to enjoy a go on the swings. And then it was a great feeling, getting back to the ward for the evening feeling sleepy and happy after all that fresh air and movement, to have a hot shower and then join our friends for supper.


I remembered that I used to love playing table tennis as a child and I became a regular player with my fellow patients. The girl in the room next door had her own private supply of hot chocolate sachets and sweets and I had several books and novels so we swapped sweets for books. And I discovered that my friend Sharon was passionate about film so we started a nightly ‘Netflix event’, turning out all the lights in the women’s lounge and drawing big chairs up and getting under our duvets to watch another great film. And then we would discuss them afterwards.I felt alive again. And delighted to be alive. And like I was coming home to the real Sarah.


The nurses and HCAs and my psychiatrist all started to notice the change in me. And they were very generous in their celebration of my recovery. I particularly remember a lovely night staff member called Eunice who was quietly joyful to see me happy and smiley again and I offered to teach her a few yoga poses. My sense of humour was coming back and I found I was having sheer gentle fun every day. I woke up feeling bouncy and refreshed and I was sleeping soundly. The solid NHS steamed puddings and crumble puddings and cake puddings, always with custard, were doing my body a lot of good too.


As my new outlook stabilised into being constant and each day, and as my Mum noticed the big turnaround in me on her visits, my psychiatrist explained that I would be able to go home soon. He took pleasure in the way I’d made some genuine friends on the ward and had become a sociable member of the community.


When the time to leave came part of me was very sad to leave Coral as by now I felt quite a deep affection and fondness for all the team I’d journeyed with through Christmas and New Year and into January 2019, staff and fellow patients alike. I knew I’d miss playing carefree giggly games of badminton with Ellie and the team in the gym, hanging out with my friends…yes, I would even miss the breakfasts and my special bowl of porridge!.


So, thank you to every member of staff at Langley Green and on Coral ward particularly. And thank you to every one of my fellow patients in there over Christmas and New Year 2018/2019. You guys rock! I have been following the hospital on Twitter ever since and I love seeing the development of your vegetable gardens and the new initiative for taking service leaders out for days and picnics at Tilgate Park. I certainly am a big fan of fresh air and oxygen! And I am thrilled to see the hospital winning lots of national recognition for your innovative models of working with patients and in your staff teams.


Seven months on, I have moved into my first home of my very own this week (!), which makes me feel deeply happy and relaxed and grounded and at peace. I am enjoying volunteering in a local community fridge and cafe project and I also love being part of my local yoga and church communities. My sister and children are coming to visit me next week so I must do more unpacking of all my boxes of belongings today! I would always be delighted to come into the hospital and share my experience with you.



Just as a postscript:it is sobering and important to see how too many life transitions or traumas coming all at once can seriously affect a person’s mental health and well being. For me it was the combination in the second half of 2018 of going through divorce and at the same time having to leave behind my beloved farm home and moving into temporary accommodation with all my belongings in storage and as well the strain and stress of trying to find a permanent home for myself that came together and overwhelmed me and knocked me off balance and sideways and into a period of mental ill health. Thank God Coral was there as a place of refuge and sanctuary where I could catch up on much needed sleep and nourish my body and slowly begin to find myself again and find my equilibrium in a gentle community with others. You guys, I salute every one of you, staff and fellow patients alike! We do not get better on our own. We do it together and in community.


Names amended to protect service leaders mentioned confidentiality.



Staff Wellbeing

Hello, my name is Rosie Drage and I am one of the Matron’s working at Langley Green Hospital, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Workforce well-being is a topic that I am both personally and professionally passionate about. It is of course also something that is being highlighted and focused on nationwide, and rightly so. I was so pleased to see that within our recent staff survey our staff continue to look forward to coming to work and remain enthusiastic about their work as well as being able to make suggestions to improve and show initiative. This I feel is something, especially within our current climate, that should be celebrated.

Following a visit from Tony and Angie from the Positive Practice in Mental Health Collaborative in September 2018, we were invited along to the national Positive Practice Awards in Liverpool alongside our amazing Chief Executive Sam Allen and our nominated colleagues from CAMHS. It was a fantastic evening highlighting and celebrating good practice across the UK. Langley Green Hospital was surprised with a ‘Team of The Year Award’ which sits proudly in our reception.

Following this I was fortunate enough to be asked by Tony and Angie to take up the role of a co-lead in their Staff Well-being special interest group, alongside Ellie Walsh from the incredible NAViGO and to provide some examples of good practice to go into their very nearly finished report!  We recently held a group facilitating discussions around staff well-being, recruitment and retention and were able to share what good practice was happening over the UK as well as arranging to visit each other’s services. Something that stuck in my mind was the concept that we all have a duty of care to self-care. Something that as nurses we aren’t very good at doing! We were then invited along to Parliament to be a part of presenting the report. Speaking within Parliament will definitely go down there with one of the most memorable moments of my career. I feel very lucky to be able to do the job I do.

You can find the report that we were lucky enough to be a part of, here. It is a great read full of lovely examples of good practice from various providers: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/improving-care/nccmh/ppimh-report—a-happy-healthy-workforce.pdf?sfvrsn=25749e62_0

Running alongside all of the amazing work that is carried out 24/7 within the hospital, a key message within the leader-leader model that we work under is never to forget the basic acts of kindness and time to ask how someone is- and waiting for the answer. We are passionate about being transparent and honest, and learning together. We don’t make any decisions without our service leaders and why would we? Amongst high pressured environments and an ongoing reduction in resource we must not neglect or lose sight of the reason we are here, not let this stop us from seeking regular feedback and continuing to develop and learn together with service leaders and carers.

I am so proud to be a nurse, a leader and a tiny little cog in our wonderful NHS. I am passionate about promoting our staff to engage in good self-care. After all, if we are not rested and looking forward to coming to work how do we expect to care for others? Quite simply, a happy team = a happy ward. I saw a recent tweet saying yes our workforce is stretched, but it is our responsibility to ensure that we create and maintain working environments that are supportive, open and appealing for those nurses that do work within our services and that are coming into nursing. I am so proud of both that and the ‘feel’ that people get when they come to Langley Green when they meet our lovely staff and their smiles. I love keeping up my weekly shift in numbers and I’m a great believer management in numbers.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post! If anyone would like to come and hear more about well-being, recruitment and retention or meet to share good practice, we’d love to hear from you! My email is: rosie.drage@sussexpartnership.nhs.uk