NI’s chief medical officer has urged people to look after their mental health and wellbeing this winter.
Dr Michael McBride said he was “acutely aware” that Covid-19 restrictions have had “far-reaching implications especially on mental health and wellbeing”.
“This has been an exceptionally tough year for everyone,” said Dr McBride.
Stricter coronavirus measures were extended last week by the executive until 20 November.
Although acknowledging their affect on mental health, Dr McBride said the restrictions were “essential for saving lives and protecting our health service”.
“We know that this pandemic has already taken its toll on the mental health of our population and as we enter winter and are in the midst of a second wave, it is likely that mental health issues will be exacerbated,” he said.
“For those who have experienced stress, anxiety or loneliness, these feelings could become even more pronounced and we must also be mindful that people of all ages and walks of life are likely to be impacted.”
Dr McBride added it was important to recognise this is “not abnormal” and must be prepared to talk to others and seek help when needed.
‘We will weather this out’
The chief medical officer said he knew the pandemic had been “particularly tough” for young people.
“There has been so much disruption to your life,” he said.
“It is likely that you can’t see your friends as often as you would like, that your education has moved online, and sports and hobbies interrupted. And you may be worried what the future holds.
“Please be assured we will weather this out.”
He encouraged everyone to get regular sleep, exercise, eat well and to balance time between activities that give a sense of achievement and activities that are for fun or relaxation.
“And remember that during the Covid-19 pandemic, health and social care services are still there for you, so it’s important to ask for help and not hold back,” he added.