A leading charity has called for greater mental health supports after the Covid-19 pandemic because it has exacerbated people's fears and anxieties. 

Samaritans Ireland said the Government needs to support mental health services post Covid-19 and warned of long-term problems without them. 

Regional Director of Samaritans Ireland Rory Fitzgerald said: "We want to see a new general mental health policy implemented because there is going to be a huge demand post pandemic for mental health, poverty relief, homelessness, disability supports."

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he added: "I know the country is going to be short of money but it still has to put an emphasis on these areas because it is going to cause a lot more long-term problems. 

"Even with restrictions easing we are quite aware that many people face an uncertain future. Some are concerned about losing their jobs or their businesses. Others may be facing challenging financial circumstances. Others may still have to remain isolated." 

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said she agreed with Mr Fitzgerald.

She said the previous government launched a ten-year mental health strategy in June called 'Sharing the Vision’ and money would be found to implement it. 

Samaritans Ireland and Alone - a charity supporting older people - received increased numbers of distressed calls on their telephone support lines from people during the pandemic. 

"They related to everyday anxiety and life issues but Covid-19 magnified the intensity of the issues," Mr Fitzgerald said. 

"Normally people ring us about isolation, loneliness, anxiety, mental health, family, relationship issues, financial worries, as well as all life issues. These issues are still cropping up but they are much more exacerbated by the pandemic. People are more anxious. There is more depression," he said. 

He said self-isolation and cocooning also caused huge issues for the over 70s.

"Some people are ringing us who never rang us before.

"Also, in terms of the essential workers they are going through a very difficult time. They are stressed about workloads. They worry about their families. 

"Samaritans Ireland's key message is that if you are struggling with the fallout of Covid-19, if life is difficult and you are feeling anxious, stressed or unable to cope, don’t struggle through it alone and don't bottle it up. We are here to listen and there are other organisations out there the likes of Alone and Aware. There is plenty of help and people need to ask for it," said Mr Fitzgerald. 

Alone's National Support Line heard similar fears and concerns to the Samaritans. Alone received over 26,000 calls since the start of the pandemic.

Alone CEO Sean Moynihan said the frequency and numbers of people expressing suicidal ideation increased dramatically during the pandemic. 

"We would always get calls from people who might be deeply distressed - maybe one or two calls a week where people expressed suicidal ideation.

"During the height of the pandemic we were getting four to five of those calls a day. Thankfully that has reduced somewhat at the moment but it tells you that there are still a lot of people with a lot of anxiety," he said. 

Mr Moynihan added that as Ireland moves through its Covid-19 reopening phases, older people who were cocooning or suffering anxiety will start to rebuild some level of normality. 


Helplines 

Samaritans Ireland -116123 or by email at:jo@samaritans.ie 

Alone's National Support Line - 0818 222 024