‘Deep and lasting scar’ fears as mental health referrals in South Tyneside drop during pandemic

Hundreds fewer people with common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression have been referred for talking therapies through South Tyneside’s NHS Trust so far during the pandemic, analysis of NHS figures shows.

It comes as the mental health charity Mind called on the Government to go further to tackle the “deep and lasting scar on the nation’s mental health” that an economic recession will bring.

The latest NHS figures show 3,525 people in the borough and neighbouring Wearside were referred to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust between April and August –1,615 fewer than the same period last year.

IAPT provides therapy for adults with common problems such as depression and anxiety, but Mind has warned that people have struggled to access face-to-face support this year – particularly during the first lockdown.

King Street, South Shields

Referrals plunged by -62% in April compared to April 2019.

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It was the same picture across England, with referrals falling by 57% in April, and down by 29% for April to August as a whole.

Charity the Mental Health Foundation has said it fears the effect rising unemployment because of the pandemic will have on the UK’s mental health.

Economic difficulties caused by the pandemic are expected to have a lasting impact on employment levels.

One in five unemployed people surveyed said they had had suicidal thoughts in the past two weeks, while more than a third of people in full-time work were worried about losing their job.

Office for National Statistics figures show the unemployment rate in the UK rose to 4.8% between July and September, up from 3.9% in April to June.

In the North East, the unemployment rate was 6.7%.

Local employment figures are only available for the 12 months to June, and show the unemployment rate in South Tyneside was 6.9%, uncharged in the 12 months to March.

However, the number of people claiming Universal Credit has increased 70.4%, from 18,122 in February to 30,880 in October.

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