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"A mental illness can affect almost anyone”: Community Psychiatry Bonn at work during the pandemic

"A mental illness can affect almost anyone” : Community Psychiatry Bonn at work during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has made people feel anxious. The Community Psychiatry Foundation in Bonn offers help, with around 500 people now receiving support in Beuel. But the long-term effects of the pandemic will probably not become apparent for several months.

Fear of contracting the virus, financial worries, homeschooling overload, and little hope of a quick return to normal life: The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have triggered fear, uncertainty and stress on many levels. But the long-term psychosocial impact on each individual will probably only become known in several months. What is already is clear is that this complex and stressful situation will not leave anyone unscathed.

The pandemic situation especially affects those who have already suffered from mental illnesses. "Crises like these show what kind of resilience a person needs to cope with extraordinary circumstances and what skills they possess to get through difficult life situations without lasting damage," says Wolfgang Pütz, Chairman of the Board of the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg Community Psychiatry Foundation and network manager of bonn-rhein-sieg-fairbindet.

"Almost anyone can be affected by a mental illness," adds Pütz. "In this context, it is very important to the foundation to provide help for all those who need support so they can cope. We combine a variety of services here." In addition to providing care and support for those affected, they also focus on prevention.

The Bonn-Rhein-Sieg Community Psychiatry Foundation was established at the end of 2018 as a non-profit foundation by the Bonn Association for Community-Based Psychiatry. In addition to providing training and continuing education services, the Café Pauke in Weststadt and the restaurant Godesburger in Bad Godesberg are also affiliated with the organization. Around 2,000 clients are supported through the various offers of the foundation; in Beuel there are around 500 people. “(This includes people) from 18 to 65 years old, from those who are illiterate to those from academia," adds Pütz.

Building bridges for people with mental illness

"Our goal is to make them fit for the primary labor market," he emphasizes. This is because meaningful employment increases self-esteem, which in turn can have an impact on mental health. He explained that the organization takes on the role of a bridge builder, supporting and assisting people until they eventually can transition into the labor market.

Practical work is also part of the experience and takes place at the main offices in Beuel. For example, workers there assemble lighting for the automotive industry. Pütz is particularly proud of a contract procured from the German government. "We prevailed in a Europe-wide tender for this." Today, brochures and information materials for all government ministries are produced in the company's own production facility. This amounts to around 3.5 million materials that are mailed out every year.

Particularly strict hygiene concept

"The multi-faceted requirements of clients from companies, the state, associations and political organizations offer workers with mental illnesses a valuable medium to test themselves within the framework of market-relevant activities, to continue their education, and to integrate them into the primary labor market," explains Pütz. "Through this work, our clients gain a structure to their day and can maintain social ties. That is particularly important for these people," he says.

This is why, with the outbreak of the pandemic, the decision was made to follow an especially strict hygiene protocol in order to continue offering the service. In addition to strict adherence to AHA rules, everyone who enters the building has their temperature taken. The exact time spent in the building and contact persons are documented, and visitors are not allowed in the work areas. This approach has worked well. There has only been one positive case among the employees since the outbreak of the pandemic. When that happened, the contact persons were immediately identified and tested. "This tightly woven system is the only way we can keep the production facility in operation," says Pütz.

For more information: visit www.stiftung-gemeindepsychiatrie.de.

(Orig. text: Gabriele Immenkeppel / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)