A “new pandemic” of mental health problems arising from Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions will be here by next year, Mitchelstown mental health advocate Carmel O’Gorman has warned.
Ms O’Gorman, who has suffered from depression for the past 29 years and who founded Mitchelstown’s Silver Lining mental health support group, was herself hospitalised in June in a severe relapse of her condition, that she says is strongly connected to the conditions of Covid-19 restrictions.
“It was the lowest ever relapse, so bad that I was having suicidal thoughts,” Ms O’Gorman said. “I was in hospital for three days and they adjusted my medication.”
“I think lockdown was a lot to do with it: not being able to see my grandchildren or my family.”
Conditions created by the Covid-19 response, including isolation, financial problems, unemployment and uncertainty for the future, are affecting the mental health of many people in Mitchelstown and surrounds, she said.
Having founded the Silver Lining mental health support group five years ago, penned a book charting her own experience of living with depression, and regularly volunteering with Cork Mental Health, Ms O’Gorman is in frequent contact with people seeking services and advice and she said she has noticed a sharp increase in such requests in recent weeks.
The Silver Lining group were meeting weekly, with up to 20 participants each week, until the Covid-19 lockdown in March and Ms O’Gorman said that she’s still “waiting for the green light” to resume the meetings.
She warned that services for an increase in mental health demands were needed, despite the excellent work of groups like Cork Mental Health Foundation.
People who are struggling with their mental health should contact their GP or counsellor, she said, and learning to be open about your condition is also vital.
“People are still afraid of the stigma, but if you don’t talk, you’re fighting an uphill battle,” Ms O’Gorman said.