How an online community developed by Hafal in Wales has become a lifeline for people across the UK

A national survey conducted by Hafal over the last month found that the mental health of 74% of respondents has been negatively affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. It’s not surprising: many of us are understandably anxious about the virus, and the fact we are living more isolated and lonely lives because of the lockdown simply adds to the strain.

At Hafal we’ve been striving across Wales not only to meet the needs of our clients, volunteers and staff, but also to support anyone whose mental health is being affected by the coronavirus outbreak. This has largely been achieved by delivering Hafal’s Promise – our pledge to provide ongoing support, advice and friendship to people beyond our services who experience mental health problems.

One key part of our Promise work is the delivery of our online community, Clic.

In 2014 Hafal received a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to develop Clic – an online community accessible by computer, tablet or mobile where people could share their mental health concerns in a free, moderated and supportive space.

During its first three years the project had a significant impact, much greater than we anticipated. As one user explained: “Since joining Clic I’ve felt less alone because everyone is supportive of each other. I feel part of a community because the fears that I’ve experienced in my worst times were also experienced by other people on the site.

“Sometimes my anxiety was too bad to attend group meetings, socialising can be really overwhelming so being able to leave the website when I’m ready takes a lot of the pressure off me. Knowing that the service is there 24 hours a day is like a safety blanket, I can just go back online when I’m feeling up to it.”

When the Lottery-funded project came to an end we were extremely lucky to receive funding from Lloyds Banking Group to continue the service in Wales. Then, little more than a month ago, and in light of the coronavirus outbreak, Lloyds Banking Group provided additional funding to roll the service out across the UK as a Mental Health UK service.

Mental Health UK brings together four national mental health charities working across the country: Hafal in Wales, Rethink Mental Illness in England, Support in Mind Scotland, and MindWise in Northern Ireland.

Needless to say, we were thrilled that our Welsh service was to be extended to everyone in the UK – and at a time when it is so very needed.

Launching Clic UK, Brian Dow, Chief Executive of Mental Health UK, explained: “Clic is the first UK wide online community of people who have already experienced mental ill health, helping others who are struggling with theirs – launching at a time where demand for support has never been higher. By providing this service, we hope to support thousands of people through the Covid-19 crisis, reducing the burden on our healthcare system by providing easy access to mental health advice and information.”

Already the online community has supported a significant number of people across the UK and users have helped each other through all kinds of issues. What Clic proves is how hugely therapeutic it is to share experiences, support others and feel connected.

To anyone reading this who is struggling with the lockdown we say – please visit https://clic-uk.org/ and join the conversation! Not only will you gain support to deal with your own situation, you’ll also be able to provide support to others – and hopefully make a few new friends and connections along the way…

For more information please contact Matt Pearce, Head of Communications, by email at matthew.pearce@hafal.org