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Adira Survivor-led mental health service adapts with launch of Food Pharmacy

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Volunteers at Adira's 'Mental Health and Me: The Unspoken Taboo in the Black Community' event

Adira is a Sheffield-based survivor-led mental health and wellbeing service for black people with mental issues. The organisation, which normally operates from the SADACCA building on the Wicker, has been adapting to lockdown in recent weeks, including launching its Food Pharmacy service. Founder Ursula Myrie told us more.

What did Adira do before Covid-19?

Before Covid-19, Adira ran awareness-raising conferences to begin different conversations around the taboo subject of mental health in the black community, breaking the cycle of abuse in the black community amongst others.

We had a monthly support group for black women only. We did home visits for those who needed support at home. We provided support for people with benefits, homelessness, work issues etc, [...] provided telephone support, [and] we had a support group for young people from the age of 15 up with mental health issues.

How have things changed since lockdown?

Since the start of the lockdown all our services have gone online, so we do a Zoom support meeting for anyone that needs it.

We do weekly Zoom Afro-Carribean cooking classes with young people from age 18 up. We do drive-through talking support for those people who are struggling with not having face-to-face contact. We have a Facebook support group for men and women.

Tell us about the Food Pharmacy.

The Food Pharmacy was set up in response to the devastating fallout of the Covid virus, in regards to people losing their jobs or benefits, or in some cases both.

We named it a Food Pharmacy as 'food bank' seems to have such negative connotations and many people associate it with extreme poverty, the 'lower classes', shame or embarrassment. To date we have helped to feed nearly 1,000 people of all ages, races, religions and classes.

The feedback from those accessing the Food Pharmacy has been beautiful and sad. To hear a parent tell you how they were contemplating suicide because they did not have enough food to feed their children, and in the same breath tell you, with tears streaming down, that the food they have received from the Food Pharmacy has been a god send fills you with mixed emotions.

What particular challenges to mental health does Covid-19 and the associated lockdown present for the people you work with?

For some people, being able to spend time out of the house every day in the fresh air, mixing with other people, really helped their mental health, so being trapped at home is devastating for them.

Many of our service users were in abusive or toxic relationships or situations, where work, school, uni, or college provided an escape. Covid has made it virtually impossible for them to escape the source of their pain and for many just walking away isn't an option.

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Women involved in Adira's 'Breaking The Cycle of Abuse' documentary.

Some of our service users have struggled to adapt to using technology like Zoom and this has caused many to meltdown and retreat into themselves and their worlds even further.

Some of our service users have struggled with not having someone to physically hold them in their darkest moments, or just sit on the sofa with them as they talk through their trauma.

What does 'Adira' mean?

Adira is a Hebrew word. It means strong, dignified, powerful. Our service users have shown immense strength, dignity and power to overcome the devastation that Covid-19 has brought to our community and we will continue to support them to do that going forward.

To learn more about Adira, to donate to the cause, or to access its services, including the Food Pharmacy and private Facebook groups, get in touch with Ursula.

Filed under: Adira #Coronavirus

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