Enosh: Supporting people with psychosocial disabilities in Israel during COVID-19

Adv. Liron David, LL.M, BSW is the Director of International Relations at Enosh and is an Israeli lawyer and social worker. Enosh - the Israeli Mental Health Association - is the largest community-based mental health organisation in Israel. Operating in 70 centres across the country, Enosh provides community rehabilitation services to support the social inclusion and rights of people with psychosocial disabilities and their families. In this post, Liron shares aspects of Enosh’s work supporting people during the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel

Key Resources: Innovations:
People with psychosocial disabilities are one of the most vulnerable and financially distressed populations during the pandemic Received donation of smartphones with data to continue services remotely                                                                          
Clarify new settings and guidelines for professionals and service users Training employees with lived experience to lead online peer support groups
Adopt resiliency programmes and innovative methods to continue providing support and care  Opening two additional mental health support lines for targeted groups                                                                                              

The COVID-19 outbreak has majorly interfered with our service users’ routine social interaction and rehabilitation processes. We support adults with severe mental health conditions, youth struggling with mental health issues and families now isolated from their loved ones. Physical distancing restrictions also impact our professional teams and peer support programmes as they can no longer conduct home visits. Prior to COVID-19, almost 100% of our work was done face-to-face.

Our teams are working tirelessly to provide support. More than 6,000 people with psychosocial disabilities use our services in Israel and are now in quarantine or under lockdown. We know that individuals who are already struggling with their mental health are at higher risk of experiencing worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression during this pandemic. 

Enosh team preparing and distributing food packages.

In the past month, we transformed our programmes so they comply with physical distancing regulations and guidelines from Israel’s Ministry of Health. We are conducting activities online and over the phone and only do face-to-face visits when absolutely necessary, in accordance with guidelines. We have also added two mental health hotlines to provide support and information to the public, families and youth in addition to the information line we usually operate. Our activities in response to the pandemic include: 

1. Emergency Resiliency Programme and Guidelines. These guidelines help our teams adjust to the latest emergency routine. An organisational survey we conducted showed that employees feel meaningful in this time, in part due to the new working structures we adopted in response to the pandemic. For example, they have appreciated the morning and evening check-ins for staff and the new organisational guidelines.

"From pressure and burnout to resiliency and growth" training invitation (Hebrew).

2. Online and remote provision of recovery services, including supportive housing, supportive employment and social centers. We are providing case management with technological adaptations. Face-to-face meetings are conducted only when necessary according to updated regulations. We received a donation of smartphones with data from one of the largest mobile companies in Israel to support our new remote care.

  • The Supportive Housing Programmes offer services to more than 2,500 people and are still operating with modifications. We are working around the clock to ensure hygiene and sanitation equipment, food and medicines and emotional support. 
  • We developed and modified our work previously conducted at Social Care Centres to an online Facebook platform and YouTube channel with recreational and social content, such as lectures, museum tours, wellness and sport lessons and virtual city tours around the world. These videos aim to raise awareness, increase feelings of belonging and promote healthy lifestyles and social skills. We continue to provide case management and check-ins with the clients according to their needs.
  • Online Peer-to-Peer Support Programme. We are modifying our lived experience department work in a nationwide peer-to-peer programme that is also supported through UPSIDES - a research project aiming to scale-up peer support interventions for people with severe mental illness. The pandemic changed our research plans. We transformed the programme into an online video platform, which creates spaces for peer-to-peer support. We are training Enosh employees with lived experience to lead peer groups from all around Israel.

3. Two additional designated mental health support lines. In non-emergency times, Enosh operates an information line for people who want to understand how to navigate the mental health system. At this time of crisis, we opened two new lines for the public: one for people with psychosocial disabilities and their family members and the other for teenagers and young adults experiencing mental health crises.

Zeev is a service user volunteering to delivery medications.

4. Youth headspace Centres. headspace is a proven youth mental health model, catering to the mental and emotional health needs of young people aged 12-25 by providing a multidisciplinary enhanced primary care structure or ‘one-stop-shop’ model. We continue to provide services through online and telephone platforms. Our teams work from home or in offices according to the health authority guidelines. headspace teams are opening a variety of online groups to parents and youth for different age groups and languages.

headspace poster with resources for different groups (Hebrew).

5. Family Support. We continue to provide support and counselling in our family support centres, through one-on-one and group sessions with an online platform. We opened new groups that are now much more accessible to people in the peripheral areas of Israel. We were able to provide telephone or video counseling and create new methods of working, such as parents and siblings together and group support during holidays. We continue to provide information and lectures through the designated Facebook page for families and other media platforms. 

As one of the most vulnerable and financially distressed populations in society, people coping with psychosocial disabilities need our solidarity along with professional and financial support now more than ever. During this time, we recommend mental health organisations promote resiliency and emergency programmes and adopt creative solutions for keeping in touch with service users on a daily basis, for example, using video chats, messaging apps and telephone calls. It is important to provide teams and service users with certainty and support, listening to different perspectives to inform decisions.

Follow Enosh on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramYouTube and LinkedIn.

Key Resources:

  • Facebook platform for recreational and social content in Hebrew (Enosh) [Link]
  • YouTube channel for recreational and social content in Hebrew (Enosh) [Link]
  • Mental Health & Psychosocial Support for Staff, Volunteers and Communities (IFRC) [Link]
  • Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations for Volunteers in COVID-19 (IFRC) [Link]

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