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How a pandemic has changed Henry Smith House

This week is mental health awareness week so we spoke to our team in Watford who run our mental health work at Henry Smith House.

We run a variety of activities out of Henry Smith House to support people with both complex and not so complex needs. There are talking sessions, singing groups, groups looking at mental and emotional wellbeing as well as exercise classes like yoga.

“Henry Smith House is a place that people feel very safe and trust the staff. We provide positive support that makes a difference in their lives,” said Bina. “People feel really secure when they come to Henry Smith House, that’s the main thing. They talk about what they like, and share emotions because it is a safe place and they trust us.”

“People come even if they don’t have a particular activity to attend,” Rhea added. “It’s a home, a big family where they can chat to anyone – somebody is always available to talk. We’re a community.”

Like everyone, the current pandemic and social distancing rules has forced Henry Smith House to reshape how they support people. Most of the services have moved online, there are yoga sessions each week over zoom, a carers group and an online art group where attendees have painted the scenes out of their windows. There’s also a general group for people who want to have a bit of fun, chatting, doing quizzes and playing lingo bingo. But supporting everyone is a challenge.

“It’s hard, we have different clients group – some can join zoom – but other are not great with tech and we just have to rely on phone calls,” Rhea said. “Some are quite low – they are feeling it.”

“They are missing us, they just want to come back to Henry Smith House,” said Bina.

The staff are checking in with everyone each day to see how they are. There’s lots of problem solving and coordinating care. “We’ve referred to lots of support groups in the area and signposted them to services including Guideposts’ Stay Connected,” Jane said. “We’re sending out the newsletter, emails and post and lots of information about activities and support – and also sharing through Facebook.

“If you’re on the computer there’s quite a lot of support but we have people who have no family and we are literally it – it’s us talking to them on the phone. When we can do some socially distanced meets up to talk to them, that will be great.”

It’s clear that the team at Henry Smith House love what they do. Jane concluded with these wise words, “You can’t change people’s condition but we do a lot – we can lift people a bit by just meeting for coffee – we can be the highlight of their week.”

“Sometimes it is just about being there,” said Bina.

You can find out more about Henry Smith House, including contact details if you want to refer someone for support or you can donate to support the work here.

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