COVID-19: Extra Support For Mental Health Needed

This afternoon I had a phone conversation with the Northern Ireland Stormont Government to provide extra support available for many people living in isolation and are struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At this time, many of us are finding it hard to come to terms and process at the information in the news, the press and on social media regarding the outbreak of this global virus. Countries have shut, services have been stripped and many people are feeling more alone than ever.

I too struggle greatly at the beginning, there was a never-ending cycle of bad news, even worse predictions and misinformation being spread. It was hard to find breathing space or good in the world. I retreated into that dark place in my mind, that holds no hope or joy for me. I recognised this and took matters to fix it. I have stopped watching the news and I am more careful of the information I consume online. I am in a much better place mentally now and whilst I am still fearful of what is here and what is yet to come, I can see the joy in life.

Many people are not as lucky as me and need extra support to help them make sense of the world and to keep themselves safe both physically and mentally. Lots of great work has been set up to provide many services and support, one aspect I feel has been unfortunately overlooked – mental health.

Many people are now in isolation with one or two people, some are friends and family, so to ring and talk to someone on the telephone may not be right for me. I know from my experiences at the beginning of the lock down, that I would have been uncomfortable to do so, in fear of being overheard by someone. Speaking to a counsellor must be done in an environment where you feel open to talk freely without fear of judgement or recrimination.

I have asked the Northern Ireland Stormont Government to investigate setting up an online counselling session or sessions, where people can turn to if they need the support. This could be done using written words, rather an vocabulary. Perhaps on the Department of Health or Department for Communities website, there could be a Live Chat box where one could speak directly to a counsellor. Other options could be assigning a counsellor to a patient and allowing the sessions to be done over WhatsApp or email.

Mental health must not be forgotten about at this time and we must lay the foundation to provide the support for tomorrow and the weeks and months ahead.

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