PEOPLE finding it difficult to cope with the effects of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis are being urged to seek support.

The number of GP referrals to Community Connectors – a service to help people improve their mental health and wellbeing, has fallen dramatically during the pandemic raising concerns that people might not be getting the support they need.

Between April and June, the service – commissioned by East Sussex County Council and the county’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and delivered by Southdown, received 147 referrals compared to nearly 400 between January and March.

Kirstie Addleton, Community Connectors operations manager, said: “The pandemic has had a significant effect on all of our lives and created a huge amount of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. It’s so important that those needing support to be able to cope with the unprecedented pressures know how to access it.

“While the number of referrals from GPs has dropped due to the restrictions put in place, people can still self-refer and access all the same advice and help to support their mental wellbeing and encourage and enable self-help and resilience during these difficult times.”

Although the team at Community Connectors, which works in partnership with GPs in Hastings, Rother, Eastbourne, Seaford and Hailsham, are gradually trying re-establish face-to-face services, many can be delivered remotely on the phone or via video calls.

The service will help people develop personalised and practical solutions to deal with everyday issues – this could include exploring services, groups and activities that support individuals to improve their health and emotional wellbeing.

Steve Hickman-Brown, Southdown’s community support services director, added: “Community Connectors can have an extremely positive impact on individuals, with most reporting an improvement to their wellbeing after accessing the service.

“Two thirds of those receiving support between October 2019 and February 2020 visited their GP less as a result, which shows the difference self-help and resilience can make to people’s lives.”

More information about the Community Connectors service, which is open to anyone over the age of 16, can be found at: www.southdown.org/CommunityConnectors