Mental health experts in Dundee are urging city residents to stay connected this coming winter.

With Saturday marking World Mental Health Day, Wellbeing Works said the prospect of households not being able to mix indoors would have greater impact in the colder months.

As a result, people across Dundee are being urged to get outdoors – and take advantage of every opportunity to walk and talk with friends.

A recent YouGov survey revealed that more than eight in ten adults across Scotland have already experienced stress because of the pandemic.

And, although Scotland is not embarking on a new lockdown similar to that enforced during the  first wave of the pandemic, cases of Covid-19 are again rising, leading to fears that more restrictions could be heading our way.

Social distancing and a ban on households mixing indoors, coupled with uncertainty over job security had already had a marked negative effect in Dundee, said Wendy Callander executive director of Wellbeing Works.

She said: “One concern which we’ve been focusing on is people’s worries about losing jobs and their income, and the impact that has on people when it comes to paying their bills.

© Courtesy Matteo Bell
Wendy Callander, Executive Director for Wellbeing Works.

“Another concern is for people who were already having issues with their mental well-being, and it seems like the biggest thing for them is just that they miss people.

“For a lot of them, being with family and friends keeps them well, it gives them a reason to get up in the morning and taking that away is always going to cause problems.”

Wendy also claimed that the holiday season, which is already a tough time for people who suffer from issues such as depression or anxiety, will be even tougher this year.

She said: “Anyone who celebrates Christmas is is already thinking to themselves that this is not good.

“I think that by the time we get to Christmas we will have had nine months of not being close with the people we care about, and for many it will be the icing on a pretty horrible cake.”

© Courtesy Matteo Bell
Wendy Callander, Executive Director for Wellbeing Works.

She added: “It is really hard for a lot of people to get their heads around it, and the other thing which doesn’t help is the confusion over messages, people are really struggling to understand what is going on.

“The best advice we can give people is just to stay in contact. Although you can’t visit people at home you can still meet up for coffee or go for a walk with a friend.

“We’ve been encouraging walking sessions, where you can get together and talk about what’s on your mind while you walk with someone.

“I think we all need to appreciate and understand that it’s okay to feel anxious, worried and scared, especially at this time of year.”

According to the YouGov survey, nearly four in ten people who had experienced stress because of the pandemic said that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as sleeping well and eating healthily, had helped them cope.

Four in ten people (41 per cent) said that doing a hobby was helpful.

Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the University of Cambridge and De Montfort University Leicester, said: “There’s a growing body of strong research evidence about the determinants of our health and wellbeing.

“That is replicated by our findings. Access to nature and safe green spaces, positive social contacts, healthy lifestyles and meaningful activities are all crucial, for us to function well.”

Phil Welsh, a local mental health campaigner who lost his son to suicide in 2017, warned that a socially-distanced winter will be difficult for many people.

Phil Welsh with a picture of his son, Lee.

He said: “It’s going to be a hard time.

“It’s coming up to those darker nights, and with that and the cold many people are going to be stuck inside.

“It’s really difficult to predict what will happen, but it’s definitely a concern.

“I think that, coming up to the festive season, a lot of people are going to blatantly ignore this advice because they’re going to want to see their families and friends for the holidays.

“It’s a pretty damning thought that a lot of people are going to be stuck, sitting on their own at home for Christmas.”


Link to Evening Telegraph article here

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