Impact of covid on Hartlepool's mental health 'will last years', says chief

Hartlepool’s mental health champion has praised efforts by staff in supporting residents during the pandemic, but warned Covid-19 is likely to have an impact on people of all ages for years to come.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 12:27 pm
Updated Monday, 1st March 2021, 12:27 pm
The impact on people's mental health is expected to be one of the long-lasting after-effects of the pandemic
The impact on people's mental health is expected to be one of the long-lasting after-effects of the pandemic

Cllr Stephen Thomas provided a report to Hartlepool Borough Council looking at the developing picture around mental health in Hartlepool following the Covid-19 pandemic.

He stated how Covid-19 will have had a large effect on the mental health of people of all ages in Hartlepool in numerous ways, which will be felt for years to come.

Cllr Thomas, council mental health champion, said: “Many people in Hartlepool have been badly affected and mental health has suffered.

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“Whether it’s come through bereavement, whether it’s come through experience of covid or the long term effects of covid, the economic consequences and impacts that are rolling out through covid, or the fear and upheaval that covid has brought with it.

“I think the first implication going forward is that we are in a long term situation with regards to the implications for peoples’ mental health stemming from covid.”

Cllr Thomas noted the Government has estimated the longer term impact of Covid-19 on mental health will take ‘around five years to unwind’, but he feels it could be much longer.

He said: “I personally feel that estimate is probably on the low side and for some the long term implications and impacts of covid will last forever.

“It’s vital that the council is planning and looking forward as to how we are going to address some of the outstanding and continuing mental health demands and situations that we will see going forward.”

Isolation and loneliness

Cllr Thomas said a further major challenge which needs to be addressed is the impact of isolation and loneliness on residents.

He said: “One of the things that has become very, very evident during the course of the pandemic is the extent to which people in Hartlepool experience isolation and loneliness.

“Isolation and loneliness, the Government, Public Health England, tells us is equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day.

“It has a massive and debilitating physical and mental impact on people within the town and we must be looking at making our residents less isolated and less lonely.”

The De Bruce ward representative also paid tribute to staff from the local authority, the community and voluntary sector, health providers and an ‘army of volunteers’ for supporting communities during the lockdowns.

One of the ‘bright spots’ from the last 12 months was the increased collaboration between all organisations on the topic, Cllr Thomas noted, which he said must continue going forward.

He said: “Quite often we’ve heard about a ‘Dunkirk spirit’ being referred to, but I do believe that if we are to be able to meet the challenges that are to come, that spirit of collaboration and of joint working needs to continue and needs to be built on.

“If we are to meet the challenges and to provide the support that people in our communities are going to need, it’s more important than ever that mental health care is delivered at the right time and in the right place.”

Cllr Thomas also stressed how future mental health champions will have an ‘important role to play’ in making links between communities and the council.

Several councillors from across the chamber all praised the report and the work put in by Cllr Thomas.

Cllr Marjorie James said: “It does touch upon a large number of issues individually and collectively the council has struggled with for a long time.

“At least we are now acknowledging the level of mental health issues and the huge age spectrum that it covers.

“It’s a huge job that we’re going to face.”

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