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Mental health lockdown fear; WARNING FROM NORTH CHARITY.

Byline: Ian Johnson Reporter ian.johnson01@reachplc.com @IANJOHNSONCHRON

PEOPLE will die and lives will be shattered by the "catastrophic" impact a second lockdown will have on our region's mental health.

That's the bleak assessment of a North East charity, currently struggling through what it believes to be the darkest period in its history.

Mental Health North East is already being swamped with desperate pleas for help from those facing yet more isolation as England is plunged back into another lockdown. Fearing 80,000 more deaths in the UK, Boris Johnson announced the four-week lockdown in England which started on Thursday. Critics argue, however, that lockdowns themselves cost lives, due to the damage to both the economy and people's mental health.

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Now Lyn Boyd, CEO of Mental Health North East, has revealed she fears people will "slip under the radar" of under-funded and over-stretched services - with tragic consequences.

And she warned: "This is literally the worst period we've ever known.

"Huge efforts are being made by ordinary people to help, but there are still so many people out there who are badly suffering."

On Monday, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that his Tory Government had invested PS12bn into mental health services.

But Lyn fumed: "They are just moving money around, we are not seeing any new money.

"Mental health groups in the North East have been decimated, and we are only carrying on because we are volunteers."

Her stark assessment came on the eve of the second lockdown, which MPs voted through on Wednesday.

That's despite criticism from several Conservatives. One MP, Sir Robert Syms, said the PM has "panicked", with insufficient thought given to factors such as the fatigued public's mental health.

The charity MIND has also raised concerns, adding the second lockdown would be "the greatest test of our mental health" so far in 2020.

And according to Lyn, the timing of the lockdown - which Tory minister Michael Gove has refused to rule out extending - may only further compound people's misery.

"This is always the hardest part of the year for a lot of people anyway," she added.

"The media always put out these happy images of families together, and for the majority of people, Christmas doesn't look like this, especially this year.

"So for people who have been suffering with their mental health since March, the combination could be catastrophic." While there's a perception that suicides increase at Christmas, a British Medical Journal paper found that isn't the case.

However, feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness have rocketed since the first lockdown back in March. Nationally, around one in three people have reportedly suffered with at least one of those.

And for those already suffering from mental health issues, research by Rethink Mental Illness found that 79% of people claimed the pandemic had made it worse.

According to Lyn, her charity - which works to improve and protect mental health services in the region - has seen a sharp rise in the number of people from all age groups and backgrounds seeking their assistance this year.

"We have seen a whole wide range of ages, and we do have a lot of contact from people who were suffering from mental health before," she added.

BOYD "And I don't think (the pandemic) is hitting any particular age group the hardest, but the one you have to be most aware of is the over-40s, as they are the people who have mortgages but are now really worried about their employment status and if they can live on furlough.

"Those are often the most suicidal and it isn't because people want to die, but they just can't find a way out of their problems.

"And at the minute, these problems are not just if you can afford the things you want for Christmas, but also if you can keep a roof above your head. And I'm worried that the suicide rate will go up even more."

There are still so many people out there who are badly suffering LYN BOYD ''

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PM Boris Johnson put the UK into lockdown this week
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Author:Ian Johnson Reporter ian.johnson01@reachplc.com @IANJOHNSONCHRON
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 8, 2020
Words:682
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