The specialist mental health service offering support for people living with Long Covid

A man who spent nearly three months in a coma after contracting Covid says more needs to be done to raise awareness of the physical and mental impact of living with Long Covid.

Raj Dave, from Manchester, caught Covid in May 2021. He was put into an induced coma and was so poorly his family started planning his funeral.

When the father-of-one woke up from the coma, he thought he had only been in hospital for two days.

Two years on Raj still struggles physically, but says the mental scars have also been hard to heal.

Raj said: "I had to learn to walk and talk again. I was weak and exhausted. I couldn't move my body at all. I couldn't get up the stairs.

"I was using a zimmer frame or wheelchair. I still have to use an oxygen machine on a regular basis."

He added: "My mental health was also affected. I felt hopeless. I didn't want to go out.

"I was terrified I was going to catch Covid again.

"I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to see anyone. I could just lie in bed all day and not get up."

Raj has to use an oxygen machine on a regular basis. Credit: ITV News

The 46-year-old says the turning point was being referred  to the Post Covid Syndrome Service run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH).

He received face-to-face sessions with a Psychological Therapist.

Raj believes the sessions helped him become aware of his anger and build back positive relationships with his wife and daughter.

It also helped him accept things were going to be different and he needed to adjust his lifestyle to live with the physical symptoms of Long Covid.

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust has created the Post-Covid Syndrome Service (PCSS) for people suffering from Long Covid.

It brings together a multi-disciplinary team to help people improve their physical and psychological well-being, as well as daily functioning.

The PCSS works with people to find ways to manage persisting symptoms and see what changes can be made to help make a difference to their quality of life.

Raj received face-to-face sessions with a Psychological Therapist. Credit: ITV News

Psychological Therapist, Fatima Karim, said: "Having Long Covid has had a tremendous impact on people's lives in many different ways and forms.

"It's not just  anxiety or worry they may be experiencing. For some people, this have been a very traumatic experience.

"People have had worries around finances; they've lost their jobs; their relationships have been affected, their ability to socialise.

"We're helping them understand these symptoms are manageable and aiding that recovery process."

Caroline was fit and active and had just competed in her first strong woman competition before getting Covid. Credit: ITV News

Caroline Cook, was working as a district nurse when she caught Covid. She was fit and active and had just competed in her first strong woman competition.

Caroline said: "Literally overnight I was housebound and bed bound. I couldn't even get dressed without getting out of breath and falling over.

"I had to stop working while I was recovering and then my sick pay ran out so I had all the financial worries.

"If I tried to do something it would flare up the fatigue so it wasn't worth going out. My relationship broke down. It literally affected every part of my life."

Caroline says working with a therapist helped her manage her symptoms and learn to live with Long Covid.

The 43-year-old said: "When I was at my lowest I was in a really dark place and there came a point when I thought 'I've got to learn a new way of being Caroline', and that's where the mental health team helped me because you almost go through a grieving process for the person you've lost.

"The Caroline who was fit and healthy and full of energy - she wasn't there anymore and so I started to think how I can rebuild a new version of my life that means I am still getting some joy out of it but just in a  different way."

Dr Dale  Huey is a consultant clinical psychologist and strategic lead for primary care psychological therapies at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH).

Dr Huey said: "People have been through a whole array of traumatic experiences and sometimes feel as the world has moved on they've been left behind dealing with the consequences of that.

"We have set up a service where regardless of the experiences people have had they can talk to somebody who has an understanding of what Long Covid looks like and more importantly has an understanding of how people adjust to a whole range of traumatic events."

In the latest episode of From the North we ask should suicide prevention be taught in schools?