Wilbrahams Covid-19 Joy Bray

Joy Bray, who works in the mental health field, provides the next in our series of Wilbraham Covid-19 which provides insights into how some of our Wilbraham residents are involved in or affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin Gienke

These are, as everyone is saying, strange times. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, when the sun’s shining and I’m gardening, there’s that Bank Holiday feeling in the air – everyone seems to be out cycling and walking, shouting Hellos, commenting on the lovely weather. We all seem to have so much time to spend just idling and gossiping at a distance. Weirdly, life almost seems to be pleasant. This experience gives me hope that change, some lasting good, will come from this lockdown experience. My mother was forever grateful to the Second World War, which gave her opportunities she would not otherwise have had. Her father could refuse to let her take up her university place, but he couldn’t stop her joining the war effort in the WAAF!

I am semi-retired from mental health work but still involved in a variety of ways. One of my activities is working on the acute admission ward at Fulbourn Hospital, where I work as a bank nurse, just two shifts a week. I love doing this work – having been a senior lecturer for years, the clinical contact, working with patients and staff, is incredibly rewarding (and, let’s face it, fun). As everyone knows the NHS contains some wonderful staff, but the patients can also be great to work with as well. This week’s bank shifts have been cancelled so that staff can be redeployed to other areas – I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to see my colleagues and contribute to the effort, but I hope to be working again soon.

I am also part of a team of mental health researchers from across hospital trusts in East Anglia and North London. When COVID-19 struck, we were in the middle of applying for a large grant to completely rethink the way we deal with planning discharge from acute mental health wards and getting people back into the community. The team included people from many different backgrounds, even engineering, all trying to make the discharge experience more relevant and helpful for patients, carers and staff. The arrival of the pandemic has forced us to change direction somewhat, and we are now looking at how the extra pressures generated by social distancing and lockdown affect people leaving hospital and returning to the community. We’ve had to plan rapidly, but it will hopefully still be an interesting and useful project.

I’m also working with a colleague who delivers sessions for local NHS staff to help them maintain their wellbeing in the current climate. I work with him by supporting staff who want extra input using both online and phone resources. It’s worth noting that not all NHS staff are in hospitals, and that they, like many of us now, can find it challenging to work from home. Some can’t switch off from their work, while others find it hard to keep the motivation and energy up to keep at their jobs. And everyone misses the ‘office banter’!

Mental health is also important, but right now, with everything that’s going on, I think it’s more important than ever, and we must remember to look after ourselves and others. Although I began my piece with a note on the sunny weather and friendly faces, it’s not always like this. Even if we are not directly affected, it can still be easy to feel anxious; we may have more contact with our loved ones than ever before, but it is still possible to feel lonely. Hugs, coffee dates, aimless shopping, a good kickabout: these are some of the things which we may have only just realised we need in our lives.

The Well-brahams, which is all about mental and physical health, is just one of the important village initiatives happening at the moment. They are putting great relevant posts on the website, and I would encourage you to have a look. I’m a member of the COVID-19 volunteer group in the two villages, and I’m finding it a great way to meet people, both other volunteers and those needing some assistance. It’s great fun. The Wilbrahams Environment Group has started making small improvements to our environment but have more plans after lockdown lessens, watch out for postings.

Finally, we’re all so grateful to our local services keeping us going currently. Our Village Shop helps to keep us well-supplied, the Postmen keep us connected, and the Refuse Collectors are as important as ever. We also mustn’t forget the amazing Bottisham Surgery, whose staff are on the frontline. Thank you to all of them!

Joy Bray