The COVID-19 pandemic harmed the mental health of people of all ages in North East Lincolnshire with vulnerable youngsters, elderly or poorly people, carers and those experiencing domestic violence amongst the worst affected.
This is the stark finding of the annual Director of Public Health Report published in North East Lincolnshire along with a series of recommendations to support people to get back on track.
Tight restrictions, including the national lockdowns where people were instructed to stay at home, prevented hundreds more deaths from the virus and helped the NHS avoid becoming overwhelmed and unable to offer lifesaving treatment. However, according to the report by Deputy Director of Public Health in North East Lincolnshire, Geoff Barnes, many people are experiencing repercussions from being unable to do the things that bring them joy and can mitigate the impact of poor mental health. Even though we are now ‘living with covid’ many people are continuing to experience considerable anxiety about returning to their usual activities and this is leading to poor mental health as well as increased alcohol use which can also bring health problems.
On the positive side, the report also highlighted the huge range of support available to people of all ages who may have struggled or still be struggling with their emotional or mental health in North East Lincolnshire, from formal medical services to help in the community, as well as extra support put in place since COVID to address difficulties caused by the pandemic.
You can read the full Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Mental Health and Wellbeing in North East Lincolnshire report by visiting the council website.
“The pandemic brought enormous disruption to our lives and this has really shaken people’s mental health and undermined the mechanisms people have to cope with life’s ups and downs,“ explained Mr Barnes. “This included major impacts on work and education, increased unemployment, and reduced opportunities for social interaction that came about as a result of the pandemic and the measures that had to be introduced to contain it.
“COVID was a real threat to many people who are not in good health and they had to live with the abject fear of contracting what could very easily have been a deadly illness for them. This fear has not gone away for some, especially as we are seeing high infection rates again. Many of these more vulnerable people completely withdrew from social contact during the pandemic and are finding it difficult to return to the activities they used to enjoy. This in many cases is adding to significant social isolation and loneliness.
People experiencing difficult home situations were at times, especially during the national lockdowns, forced into prolonged contact in the home leading to additional stressors and an increase in domestic violence.
The COVID restrictions affected people of all ages and backgrounds and a major survey is now planned to ask North East Lincolnshire residents in general about their mental health and wellbeing, including reasons for not seeking help, and barriers to getting the help they need.
NEL Covid Grant Award funding has been secured to offer free reflective practice sessions, counselling sessions, and mental health awareness level 2 training to all staff and volunteers working on the frontline in the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector.
Some young children missed out on the social interactions that help them develop the skills needed to start their early education. To support local children who have been identified as having their learning and development impacted by the pandemic, North East Lincolnshire Council public health allocated funding in the form of a one-off payment of £750, to ensure a well-planned and personalised transition into early years settings with hopes this will create a positive first experience of being away from home.
Local mental health services report seeing more complex cases and growing waiting lists for children and young people following the pandemic. Worryingly there has been a worsening of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms, increased social and health anxiety, and increased eating disorder referrals. One service reports that self-harm and suicidal thoughts have become the most common reasons for young people coming to them.
“The report makes very sobering reading,” said Cllr Stan Shreeve, Portfolio Holder for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care. “It is clear that no age group has escaped some of the worst impacts of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing. However, there is a lot of support available, from medical services to community activities that people can get involved in to support them to get out and about again.”
ConnectNEL has a dedicated 24/7 phone line and an extensive database of services and activities that can put people in touch with the help they need or find community activities to take part in here in North East Lincolnshire. Visit their website at www.connectNEL.com or ring 01472 403403
“Although it may seem that way at times, you are not alone and it is so important to speak out and ask for help when things feel very bleak. Even at the height of the COVID restrictions, there was 24 hour support, 7 days a week, at the end of the phone for people feeling anxious or afraid or struggling with existing mental health difficulties, “ added Cllr Shreeve.
NAViGO offer 24/7 support for anyone going through a difficult time with their mental health. You can call NAViGO on 01472 256256, option 3 for 24/7 mental health support in North East Lincolnshire.
Shout 24/7 text support – in partnership with NAViGO. Text ORANGE to 85258.