Everyone’s mental health and emotional wellbeing remains a key priority for Health and Social Care and our partners in the community, voluntary and independent sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Health and Social Care (HSC) mental health services are safe and accessible for anyone who needs them across all HSC Trusts in Northern Ireland.
During Mental Health awareness week (18-24th May), the HSC system and key partners are reminding everyone that looking after your mental health and emotional wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical health, particularly at this time when so much remains unknown and uncertain.
The effect and scale of the challenge facing our communities and our workforce as a result of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated. There are and will continue to be a range of psychological and mental health needs emerging due to the impact of the pandemic.
Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board, Health and Social Care Trusts, and the Community and Voluntary sector, have worked in partnership with colleagues in local government and the Department for Communities, to plan and provide support for the psychological impact on our communities, workforce and those who have been bereaved during the pandemic. Planning has also focussed on services and resources that will be needed beyond the pandemic. In addition, we are linking with regions in the UK to draw on national and international learning. We are also leading on research to add to this learning.
Marie Roulston, Director of Social Care and Children for the Health and Social Care Board said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented time in our history. Society has responded and made sacrifices to keep themselves and the vulnerable in our population safe. Mental health and emotional distress accompanies any emergency situation. This is normal. We must expect an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our community, either directly as a consequence of illness or bereavement, or as an indirect consequence of the lockdown and its impact on society and the economy.
“We must bear this in mind and also be prepared to support each other, as well the many frontline and key workers who have stepped forward during this crisis.
“A dedicated HSC Staff Health and Wellbeing Framework has been developed in partnership with healthcare professionals and trade unions to guide and support the well-being of HSC staff across all sectors as a key importance throughout the current Covid-19 crisis.”
Director of Public Health at the Public Health Agency, Professor Hugo Van Woerden added: “Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity to remind us of the many issues children, young people, individuals and families are currently dealing with, and to assure people that mental health and emotional wellbeing support and services are available in our communities and our health and care service.”
“I want to urge anyone who is feeling anxious or distressed to seek support either through their GP, other services in their local community or the online resources that are available through HSC organisations.
Dr Ciaran Mullholland, Consultant Psychiatrist with the Health and Social Care Board is leading on work to determine the impact of the pandemic on our mental health, and identify the most effective interventions for prevention and early intervention and recovery.
“It is important that we understand the mental health impact of the pandemic to ensure that we are well placed to address any increase in demand on services. We are learning from the experience of other countries and also from local research which we are putting into place quickly,” he said.
If you are concerned about your mental health or someone you know is in crisis, contact your GP. The Lifeline 24hr counselling service is available at 0808 808 8000. If you are in immediate danger always call 999.
A number of COVID-19 Mental health and emotional wellbeing resources are available at www.mindingyourhead.info
For direct access to resources, please see the following links: