South Tyneside Samaritans' branch expecting rise in calls as lockdown eases
A national suicide prevention charity has warned of a potential upsurge in demand for mental health support services in South Tyneside as lockdown eases.
Suzanne Armitage, branch director for South Tyneside and Sunderland Samaritans, is expecting the number of calls to local helplines to increase significantly, with a year of restrictions having taken its toll.
Her comments come as experts point to a disproportionate mental health impact on areas with higher levels of deprivation and economic insecurity during the pandemic.
According to the Joint Strategic Needs and Assets Assessment 2019 index, South Tyneside was ranked England’s third-most deprived borough in terms of employment, as well as the 13th-most deprived for income and the 15th-most deprived in terms of health.
A quarter of borough children were found to have been living ‘on the breadline’ during the same year.
Ms Armitage said the Samaritans would giving more focus on young people over the coming months, saying they had been hit particularly hard by the past year of rolling lockdowns and other Covid-19 restrictions.
She said around 20% of the calls her organisation received during the past 12 months had been directly linked to the pandemic, and ‘all callers have been affected by it in some way’.
"For over 70 years, Samaritans has been a lifeline for people across the UK and never has the service been more Important than during the past year,” she said.
"COVID 19 has had a profound impact on the population’s mental health. Over a fifth of calls in the past year have been in reference to the pandemic but all callers have been affected by it in some way.”
Ms Armitage said numbers of people contacting the Samaritans’ helpline have remained high during 2021.
But she fears many have not been reaching out, believing the charity is operating at reduced levels, when in fact it is not.
"Some people have assumed we’re not open because of lockdown,” she added.
"But we have been open right the way through since last March, so those services are certainly still there for them. We’ve maintained our 24-hours-a-day service all the way throughout.
"We’re expecting a lot more mental health issues to come to the surface when lockdown restrictions are lifted because the ‘normality’ we’re going back to is not the kind of ‘normality’ we had in the past.”