Occupational Therapy is keeping people well at Chalkhill


Occupational therapists (OTs) at Chalkhill inpatient unit are playing a pivotal role supporting young people with their mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Occupational Therapy (OT) Team at Chalkhill Hospital in Haywards Heath, which is run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust as part of its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), has had to come up with new and innovative ways to provide vital support at this challenging time, both in inpatient services and in the community.


Occupational therapy is about taking a 'whole person' approach to healthcare, looking at both the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals and providing practical support to help them overcome barriers that might prevent them from carrying out the activities they would like to.

The restrictions imposed by the outbreak of COVID-19 have created additional barriers for many people but OTs are well placed to come up with creative solutions to help people navigate this challenging time.


Sussex Partnership provides mental health and learning disability services across Sussex and Hampshire, and employs 238 occupational therapists across its services.

Steph Hutton, CAMHS Occupational Therapy Lead explains: "Our Occupational Therapists in the inpatient and day service team at Chalkhill have used this time as an opportunity to develop and launch the Recovery Through Activity programme on the ward. This is a programme that encourages and enables young people in our services to explore a range of activities, such as self-care, where they have looked at the relationship between food and mood, as well as enjoying some pamper kits. Physical activities have included yoga, gardening and sports, which they've enjoyed while observing social distancing. In addition, creative activities have encouraged our young people to explore reading and writing poetry and enjoying outdoor projects.

"During group sessions, young people at Challkhill have made bird feeders to put in the outside spaces. They can then enjoy seeing the birds come to feed, which can be really relaxing and rewarding. They have also contributed to the community by making dog treat bags containing homemade dog friendly biscuits (pictured) and snacks for homeless people who have dogs. During art sessions they have made mandalas out of clay and painted them and printed t-shirts. This has enabled young people to explore what they value and be able to implement this into their recovery and routine despite restrictions in place due to COVID-19 and associated isolation.

"Part of exploring a wide range of activities is to help young people identify the things they value as part of their unique identity to support good mental wellbeing. These are things we can all be doing at home and in our own lives as well. Finding meaningful occupations can be a game changer in challenging times.

"All of the staff have been working really hard under difficult circumstances to continue to provide an excellent service to our young people."

This specific work around implementing a recovery through activity programme is in addition to the normal day to day work of the Occupational Therapists, who are continuing their one to one work with patients where they look at either meaningful activity they would like to do to work towards their recovery and discharge, or around distraction and coping strategies to use on the ward or at home.

For more information about how you can take care of your mental wellbeing during this difficult time please visit: https://sussexcamhs.nhs.uk/issues/coronavirus-help-support-and-advice/  and www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-looking-after-your-mental-health-and-wellbeing. In addition, follow Children & Young People services on Twitter (@our_mh_space) or Instagram (@our_mh_space).

To support our service users and staff, our NHS charity Heads On is raising funds to create care packages. You can find out more and donate here: www.headsoncharity.org/news/urgent-appeal-covid-19-relief-fund/index.html