Survey shows significant improvement in mental health in NI this year

Official government statistics suggest that significant mental health problems could have increased by over a third last year - but have now reverted back to normal levels.

Monday, 2nd August 2021, 6:30 am

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) has released results of surveys based on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12).

The GHQ detects the possibility of psychiatric problems in the general population, containing 12 questions about recent general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance.

NISRA said that in 2019-20 it found that 19% of respondents had a high GHQ score, but that this had spiked to 30% of respondents by January this year. However, results from the same survey in May and June showed that results have now returned to 2019-20 levels of 19%.

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Bangor DJ Dylan McKee says easing restrictions is good for people's mental health.

Bangor DJ Dylan McKeen, 23, previously told the News Letter how he had tried to take his life twice during lockdown.

Now a mental health campaigner and suicide prevention ambassador, he feels the figures reflect his own personal experience.

“During lockdown I was stuck in the house on my own with the dog and it was really difficult,” he said. “Talking to people or my counsellor on the phone just isn’t the same as meeting someone in person.

“But now that restrictions are easing it is that much easier to go out and meet friends and talk openly about the challenges you are facing. Plus, my DJ work is really picking up in terms of private parties.”

However the keen powerlifter and runner also warned that sometimes government figures may not always tell the whole story.

Samaritans spokeswoman Julie Aiken said they had noticed an evolution in mental health during the pandemic - from initial fears about the virus to more recent concerns over financial issues and mental health worries..

“We are continuing to hear from people feeling concerned about coronavirus amongst issues including loneliness and isolation, mental health and family,” she said. “We know that the pandemic will have long term effects on people’s mental health.

“The ways in which callers talk about coronavirus have evolved since restrictions were imposed. In times of greater restrictions, we heard from more callers concerned about the risks and the effects of being exposed to the virus. However, as restrictions have eased, concerns have mostly been about the knock-on effects of social distancing restrictions, including financial and mental health worries.”

Julie added that Samaritans volunteers are always there to listen and they won’t judge or tell callerswhat to do. Call them for free on 116 123, email [email protected] or visit www.samaritans.org.

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