People Urged To 'Look After Their Mental Health'

Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has urged everyone to look after their mental health and wellbeing this winter as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Issuing an appeal, Dr McBride said: "This has been an exceptionally tough year for everyone. Coronavirus has upended all aspects of life and I appreciate that by this stage too many people have experienced loss, many are worried and anxious and we are all fatigued by the demands on us all.

"As Chief Medical Officer I am acutely aware that introducing restrictions, which are essential for saving lives and protecting our health service, have far-reaching implications especially on mental health and wellbeing.

"We know that this pandemic has already taken its toll on the mental health of our population and as we enter winter and are in the midst of a second wave, it is likely that mental health issues will be exacerbated. For those who have experienced stress, anxiety or loneliness, these feelings could become even more pronounced and we must also be mindful that people of all ages and walks of life are likely to be impacted. It's important that we recognise this is not abnormal and we must be prepared to talk to others about how we feel and seek help when we need it."
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Specifically addressing young people, the Chief Medical Officer said: "There has been so much disruption to your life. It is likely that you can't see your friends as often as you would like, that your education has moved online and sports and hobbies interrupted. And you may be worried what the future holds. I know this time is particularly tough for you but please be assured we will weather this out.

"In the meantime, there are things that everyone can do to help their mental health and wellbeing. These include regular sleep, exercise, eating well and balancing time between activities that give a sense of achievement and activities that are for fun or relaxation. It's vitally important to stay connected with friends and family, albeit this might be online.

"And remember that during the Covid-19 pandemic, health and social care services are still there for you, so it's important to ask for help and not hold back."

Dr McBride concluded: "It's essential that we follow the advice and limit our contacts if we are to beat coronavirus and save lives. While coronavirus may be here to stay so are we, this situation is temporary, we will emerge from this and there are better days ahead but for now I would encourage everyone to make use of the support that is available."

The Public Health Agency website has a range of resources available to support mental health, including a dedicated information hub for students. In addition the Minding Your Head website has resources to support mental health and enables access to free online stress control classes to help people cope with and recover from difficult situations.

If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing, speak to your GP. If you are in distress or despair, the Lifeline helpline is available 24/7 on 0808 808 8000.

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