THOUSANDS of frontline workers became “burnt out” serving on the pandemic frontlines, experts say. Now a new service aims to rebuild their mental health.

The Time for You initiative is aimed at the bus drivers, supermarket staff and others now struggling with the weight of the work they’ve continued to do all through lockdowns.

According to SamH (the Scottish Association for Mental Health), the “vast majority” of this group report their mental health has deteriorated since the outset of the crisis last spring.

When the public was told to stay at home where possible, these key workers continued going in each day to keep vital services afloat.

But 86% say they’ve suffered mentally as a result, SamH says. Research carried out by 3Gem on adults in Scotland in frontline jobs found younger people aged 25-34 “have been the hardest hit”.

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Heightened stress and anxiety has plagued eight in ten respondents, but almost half said they hadn’t sought help because they hadn’t though their problems were “big enough”. One third said they’d been too busy to look for support.

Now it’s hoped the free Time for You service – from SamH, Living Life to the Full and Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) – will help through self-help resources, access to therapy and the chance to work with trainee psychologists. It’s open to those in the transport, logistics, food manufacturing and supply, health and social care industries.

Paid for through Foundation Scotland’s Response, Recovery and Resilience Fund and supported by the National Emergencies Trust, its 4000 places are “much-needed”, organisers say. Now they’re working on reaching all those who could do with its services.

They’re spread out across workplaces and sectors and getting the word out is key.

The team is now urging people to come forwards.

Fiona Benton of SamH said: “We know from the research that frontline workers feel they would benefit from help such as talking therapies like cognitive behaviour therapy and access to self-help resources, so we hope that Time for You will be a valuable resource for many people. We urge anyone who is struggling to reach out and take the first step – it’s ok to not be ok.”

Dr Bryan McCann, GCU psychology lecturer, said: “Frontline workers have been superheroes during the pandemic to make sure that vital services are available to the public. They have been under a huge amount of strain, and some frontline workers are likely feeling the effects of that strain. The Time for You service provides frontline workers with invaluable support during these challenging times.

“GCU is delighted to be able to work with SamH to help deliver the Time for You service. Our trainee psychologists are providing one-to-one support to frontline workers through the service, and we are conducting an evaluation which will help to enhance the service so that it provides the most appropriate support.”

Vickie Fyfe, service manager at Time for You, said they are already seeing the positive impact: “Many people who connect with us are in a really low place and are not sure where to turn – whether that be due to not knowing who to speak to, worried about the stigma of speaking about their mental health in the workplace or because they think the problems they are experiencing are not big enough to bother others with.

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“The Time for You service is for anyone who is struggling with their mental health – and with three levels of support available, we are able to find the right level of support for each person.

“It’s been overwhelming to see the difference we’re making so far, and I hope we can reach many more people over the coming months.”

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