Number of people in need of bereavement counselling ‘will increase exponentially’, charity warns

The number of bereaved people needing support during the coronavirus pandemic “will increase exponentially”, a charity boss has said.

As the public are advised to avoid unnecessary social contact, those who suffer a bereavement while being forced to self-isolate are being urged to keep in touch with friends and family by phone or online.

Dr Erin Hope Thompson, founder and director of cancer charity The Loss Foundation, said the number of people needing bereavement counselling could increase “exponentially” in the coming weeks and months.

She said users of the charity, which supports people who have lost a loved one to cancer, have always been met by counsellors in person.

But following the Prime Minister’s advice for the public to stay at home, users are being directed to an online service to get support.

Dr Thompson said the online community will help those who are self-isolating to talk to someone who has suffered a similar loss to themselves.

“We would advise people who are self-isolating to allow time to talk about their grief, and this could be through online groups,” Dr Thompson said.

“We would also advise them to have some time away from their grief by doing things to maintain their mental health, by eating well, sleeping well and getting exercise.”

Cruse Bereavement Care has also moved away from face-to-face counselling and is supporting people by phone.

On Thursday, the charity published guidance online for grieving people affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The charity advised people to keep in regular contact with others by phone or through the internet.

People are encouraged to write or record a message to be read out or played at a funeral if they are unable to attend, or to hold a memorial at home with pictures and a candlelit vigil.

The charity said it may be possible for a funeral director to live-stream an event, or for a family or friend to record the service.

The charity’s clinical director, Andy Langford, said there has been a slight increase in the number of people calling in for support but that preparations are being made for “what’s to come”.

“There are people being bereaved though coronavirus and we are seeing that increasing day-to-day,” he said.

“We are also seeing people’s pre-existing psychological conditions getting worse through isolation – increased levels of anxiety and probably a rise in depression interlocked with chronic loneliness.

“Other behaviours we are predicting could emerge is increased suicide rates, self-harming and domestic violence.

“What we are really stressing is for people to keep in contact with each other.”

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