A charitable fund has invested more funding into third sector organisations responding to an increase in people struggling to cope.

The NHS Psychological Support Fund was set up by the NHS in north Cumbria and Cumbria County Council and is held by Cumbria Community Foundation. A further £90,612 has been awarded to four charities that are tackling the impact of anxiety, domestic abuse, and addictive behaviour, which have become more prevalent during the pandemic.

This comes at the most appropriate time as lockdown restrictions ease and, for many people, anxiety levels rise.

West Cumbria Domestic Violence received £24,480 to help reduce waiting times for its counselling service for victims of domestic abuse, which provides psychological, emotional and wellbeing support in West Cumbria

Victoria Pike, Trainee Project Manager West, said: “COVID-19 has presented many challenges for us all and continues to impact family dynamics for a lot of people. During the past 12 months, there has been a 40% increase in monthly referrals going from 25 on average in 2019/2020 to 35 in 2020/2021 and our helpline has had an overall 30% increase in calls.

“We currently have a waiting list of 134 people that have asked for help due to domestic and sexual abuse, and these referrals are not slowing down. The grant will allow us to increase counselling hours to help reduce our waiting list and the distress experienced by our clients. This will give survivors of abuse the support they very much need, let them know they are not alone and help them deal with the trauma they have experienced, enabling them to move onto a safer, happier future for themselves and their children.”

iCan Health & Fitness, based in Carlisle, received £16,400 for its wellbeing and mental health support podcasts. Jenna Sutherland, WeCan Wellbeing Co-ordinator & Development Manager, said: “We are thrilled to hear that we are receiving a grant to deliver Series 2 of our podcasts!

“Series 1 has so far received over 1,500 downloads and included local experts in health and wellbeing as well as those who shared their very personal lived experience. The feedback we had was incredible and we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of listeners who have felt comfort and reassurance from hearing local people talk about mental health so openly and honestly.

“We are honoured to be able to put together another series and will record another 12 episodes over the next year which will be full of helpful real life and raw conversations with local people. Series 1 is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify by searching WeCan Cumbria.”

Cumbria Alcohol and Drugs Advisory Service (Cadas) received £24,987 to support members of the community whose mental health has been negatively affected by their own or someone else's harmful substance use or other problematic addictive behaviour, such as gambling.

Together We received £24,754 for its Together We Talk project which provides free one-to-one and small group psychological interventions as well as family support services to people aged 11 and upwards in West Cumbria.

Peter Rooney, Chief Operating Officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know organisations close to our community can have a huge impact for people living in north Cumbria and we are delighted to support these groups. The challenges of the pandemic and lockdown have affected us all but have hit some people much harder than others. It is important we are able to support specialist help close to home like this.”

So far, 14 groups have already received funding from the NHS Psychological Support Fund. Annalee Holliday, Senior Grants, Programmes said: “The effects on people’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly general anxiety and isolation have increased during the pandemic and can have a debilitating effect on a person’s daily functioning and long-term mental health. We want to reduce the impact of this pandemic by providing grant funding to groups offering mental health support and emotional wellbeing services in North Cumbria.”

The fund can be accessed by third sector organisations in north Cumbria supporting people with anxiety and isolation and other mental health issues. Groups in the Carlisle and Eden area are particularly encouraged to apply.

For more information call 01900 825760 or visit www.cumbriafoundation.org/fund/psychological-support-fund-emotional-wellbeing/