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Mental health crisis ‘already underway’

MENTAL health organisations locally are warning of a tsumani of demand for their services because of a lasting impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Aware NI, which operates a branch in Omagh which covers all of Tyrone, this week warned that they are already witnessing signs of what they fear will be the devastating effect of COVID-19.

Speaking to the UlsterHerald, Margaret McCrossan, Community Fundraising Officer with Aware NI in Tyrone, said the loss of employment, problems with childcare and financial difficulties were all contributing to the dire situation.

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“It is clear that we are going to experience a tsumani of mental health problems and coping with them is going to be the new normal for the next six to 12 months at least,” she warned.

“We have had quite a few suicides in the North-West over the past five months and this could be linked to increased loneliness, not being able to go out and meet friends and the wider mental health problems many of which have been caused by the pandemic.

“When the pandemic was declared in March, many of us worried about what was going to happen. We realise now that, because of our experience since then, it’s going to be a big challenge to support everyone who comes to us for help.

“There are just going to be so many setbacks for people. Many have been housebound for four months and are now coming out into normal life again realising that someone in their home isn’t going to have a job anymore.

“People are also worrying about whether their children are going to be safe. They also wonder should they go out for fear of catching the virus and then spreading it to vulnerable relatives.

“The fact is that many more people are contacting our office seeking information about how they can help. In Omagh, we have a WhatsApp support which has around a dozen people engaging each week, more are linking onto online calls and it’s the same across the north.”

Aware NI is organising a number of fundraising initiatives in the coming months, including Moodwalks to mark World Suicide Day on Sunday September 6 and an Abseil on the Tower Museum in Derry.

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Fermanagh and Omagh District Councillor and GP, Dr Josephine Deehan, who is also a member of the Aware NI board, has also urged more support for mental health to help organisations cope in the coming year.

“We are facing serious problems for people with mental health, emotional and addiction difficulties in the wake of COVID-19,” she said.

“These problems are only going to increase given the stress that people are under, the loss of employment, financial difficulties. I know there is a lot of concern in the voluntary and community sector about the preparedness and capacity of them to take up the slack.”

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Ulster Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW