District nurses from Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust are helping vulnerable patients in mental health crisis across Bradford, Wharfedale, Airedale and Craven with the aim to reduce distress in the short term.

The initiative, funded by the Trust’s Better Lives charity, sees nurses distribute crisis survival skills grab bags to patients to help reduce distress in times of crisis. The bags also help individuals learn strategies to minimise the level of distress they are experiencing.

Joanne Squires, Senior Psychological Therapist and project lead said: “Crisis survival bags are an amazing tool to help to reduce distress in times of crisis. Hearing positive feedback from patients and staff is what makes the project even more rewarding. It is all about giving patients the autonomy to be able to learn to manage their distress themselves with the support of our team”

The grab bags are tailored for individuals and personalised according to the needs of the patient. Bags contain items such as cold packs, as rapid temperature changes alter chemicals in the body to help change emotions, stress balls to self soothe by touch; balloons which can be used as a tool for distraction, allowing individual to push thoughts and feelings away; lavender to self soothe by smell; encouraging cards to improve the moment by positively cheerleading individuals. Patients wanted us to add mindfulness colouring and pencils to help distract from negative thoughts, and dark chocolate as they preferred this over hot chocolate so we have added these too.

People have benefited from using the survival skills grab bags and had this to say…

“It feels like you are getting a present and it was so nice receiving something when feeling distressed. It really can change your mind set and it helped me feel more positive as it felt like someone actually cares.”

“I found the skills very helpful when I was in a crisis as it was all simple to understand but also very affective in improving mental health.”

To support the initiative, please email betterlivescharity@bdct.nhs.uk. To find out more about the Better Lives charity, visit https://www.bdct.nhs.uk/better-lives-charity/.