Call for better mental health support amid pandemic

Martin Booth, left, and Terry Skyrme were among the speakers at a public meeting about mental health

Martin Booth, left, and Terry Skyrme a public meeting about mental health services. Picture: Supplied by Martin Booth - Credit: Archant

The chairman of a mental health group has called for more help to be given to people struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. 

Martin Booth, chairman of the Campaign for Mental Health Services in North Norfolk, said many of those with pre-exiting mental health conditions were finding with isolation and loneliness brought on by the the need to self-isolate "extremely difficult". 

Mr Booth said the group was running a survey to build a picture of how the pandemic was affecting people's mental health in north Norfolk.

He said: "Some of the common themes we're already seeing is that people who were already suffering mental health issues have been finding it very difficult under lockdown. 

"They're finding it really difficult to access the mental health services they need. We're finding there's a lack of joined up thinking between the different agencies.

"We've found people have suffered because of difficulties accessing benefits, and sometimes having those benefits stopped and having difficulties getting them restored."

Mr Booth said one issue was people needing an initial assessment of their mental health needs but finding nowhere offering the service. 

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He said: "There is a great fund of goodwill in north Norfolk, with excellent voluntary initiatives such as Share As One in Cromer and the proposed men’s sheds, although inevitably Covid-19 has affected how such initiatives can operate.

"But the voluntary sector alone cannot shoulder the burden of the mental health crisis. 

"We desperately need investment in professional, NHS mental health services in north Norfolk, now more than ever."

Mr Booth said some of the responses already received to the survey included: "I am very depressed and anxious"; "I was supposed to be transferred to someone but I have just been left to fend for myself" and "(services are) very slow, excellent but (there is) not enough support for people alone like me".

There will be a public meeting held online via Zoom on Tuesday, February 2 at 7pm titled 'Covid and the crisis in mental health'

Guest speakers will include professor of social work Iain Ferguson and author of 'He died waiting', Caroline Aldridge. 

The survey can be found online, email or visit the campaign's Facbook page for more information.