50% dip in mental health referrals of ‘deep concern’

DUP MLA Gary Middleton has said a reported 50 per cent drop in mental health referrals during the COVID-19 pandemic was ‘deeply concerning.’

Mr. Middleton, speaking at the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday, said he believed the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown have severely affected people’s mental health.

“I recently met the chief executive and senior management of the Western Trust in my constituency regarding the Trust’s reset plan as we come out of COVID-19. The plan is about getting our services working again and allowing people to get back into our hospitals for all routine procedures.

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“It is, however, deeply concerning that they have seen a 52 per cent reduction in mental health referrals. That should absolutely concern us, given the evidence that has been produced that suggests that COVID-19 has had a severe impact on people’s mental health,” he remarked.

The DUP MLA said restrictions on ‘personal freedoms and everyday social interaction during lockdown have had a profound impact on the emotional and psychological well-being of people living in our community’. He said a recent Queen’s University study that surveyed 2,500 people living in the UK during the first month of the COVID-19 lockdown period found a third of met the clinical criteria for depression.

“That is a very stark statistic. One in five meet the criteria for COVID-19-related PTSD due to the pandemic,” he said.