Demand for mental health support soars across Lancashire as county enters third full lockdown

Money troubles, social isolation, job insecurity and difficulty getting help are some of the things that have plagued people throughout the pandemicMoney troubles, social isolation, job insecurity and difficulty getting help are some of the things that have plagued people throughout the pandemic
Money troubles, social isolation, job insecurity and difficulty getting help are some of the things that have plagued people throughout the pandemic
As the nation enters its third lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus, mental health campaigners across the county have warned that many people are suffering.

For years Blackpool has topped lists of worst places in the UK for depression, and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, experts say.

Social isolation, money troubles, job insecurity and a lack of easily accessible- support are just some of the problems many desperate people are facing each day.

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Jessica Johnson, who runs the STAR Blackpool mental health support group on Church Streetm said: “We were busy before Covid-19, but it has got to the point now where we have doubled in figures. We have people who have never had mental health problems before calling us, dealing with anxiety.

“Isolation has been the biggest problem, with a lot of people living on their own, and it’s causing chaos with mental health.

“We had around 150 members of our private support group before Covid-19. We now have 330 so far, and that’s growing day by day within the local area. We get phonecalls from people who say they are struggling with isolation and losing their jobs. It’s very difficult.

“We have had to shut our support groups again. Luckily we have not had any Covid-19 scares, but at the same time we know that people are catching it and we don’t want to put any of our members at risk because a lot of them are vulnerable. At the same time, we don’t want to leave them isolated and dying from mental health problems.”

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Tony O’Neill, who runs Men’s Shed in Fleetwood, which aims to reduce the rate of male suicides by offering local men a judgement-free space to discuss their troubles, said: “(Lockdown) will put a fresh strain on us, but it’s a strain that we can handle. Hopefully people are going to be prepared to come through our door and admit they have mental health problems. We are expecting a massive influx in numbers when we do open in three or four months time, and we’re using that time to build our workshop and kitchen.

“Sincerely, it has been an unbelievable year. The increase has been tenfold in the number of people messaging us.”

In 2018/19, 24,365 people in Blackpool were being treated for depression - 17 per cent of the town’s adult population, or one in every seven registered patients according to Public Health England. This made the town the worst in the UK for depression.

Meanwhile, in Preston, the rate of suicides was found to have increased in 2018/19, putting the city above the national average.

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Alice Newton-Leeming, director of Mental Health Learning in Preston, said: “Some services have seen a 170 per cent increase in referalls. There’s a huge increase in the number of people reaching out for help. but sadly the number of professionals in place hasn’t increased, so there’s a real struggle with trying to meet the demand, which is incredibly sad and incredibly frustrating.

“We are a social species. We weren’t designed to be in isolation. We thrive on contact with other people and that’s been one of the main things that has affected people’s mental health.

“Because the situation is constantly changing, we have never been able to get used to it. This constant level of uncertainty puts people on edge because it’s out of their control. People like to be in control. They need to know what’s going on in their lives.”


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Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South, said: "The measures that the government have taken throughout this pandemic to protect public health have been necessary and without those we would have seen the NHS overwhelmed and tens of thousands of more people would have died from Covid 19. However, the ongoing restrictions have of course have a serious impact on society. Whether that be on the economy, on people’s jobs, educational development, or of course mental health. This is why the government have not taken the steps they have lightly as they know the consequences that lockdowns have on people and their lives. The impact on people’s mental health, anxiety, loneliness, and conditions such as eating disorders, has been significant throughout lockdown. Although the government has vastly increased spending on mental health services, both nationally and locally since 2010, it is clear that further investment in services is needed in both the short and the long-term to ensure that those who are suffering from mental health issues receive the support they require. There are a number of fantastic local charities who are also working to support people locally who are struggling and I would urge anybody in the community who needs support to seek health from their doctor or one of the local charities and services available.

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith said: "“There is no doubt that the nation’s mental wellbeing has taken a battering in 2020 and that looks set to continue for a little while yet as the vaccine programme gets going. Lockdowns and restrictions are tough for us all, and we should be honest with those around us when we struggle as inevitably we all will. It’s not a sign of weakness to talk about how you are feeling, and if you feel you need more help reach out to your GP who will be able to sign post you to more support. The important message is don’t bottle it up, don’t pretend you can cope on your own, none of us can.”

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