A new virtual wellbeing hub to promote positive mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic has been launched.

The Department for Communities and the Department of Health have partnered with 15 leading mental health and wellbeing charities and the Healthy Living Centre Alliance, which represents 28 local Healthy Living Centres, to focus on promoting mental health and wellbeing during, and after, the COVID-19 emergency.

A UK-wide study involving Queen’s University Belfast has explored the psychological impact of lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey of over 2,500 people included 470 respondents from Northern Ireland. One third met the criteria for depression; 30% were anxious. One in five participants, meanwhile, were experiencing COVID-19-related PTSD. 

Commenting on the launch of the online hub, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “The CovidWellbeingNI partnership draws together an unprecedented wealth of expertise and support with one clear aim – to promote the positive mental health of people including those vulnerable people and communities who are struggling at this time.

“Existing inequalities have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important that information and support reach as many people as possible.”

The CovidWellbeingNI partnership is calling on people:

– To acknowledge how they are feeling and coping at this time;

– To take positive action to look after their mental health;

– To reach out for help and support.

The online wellbeing hub at www.mindingyourhead.info draws together information, self-help guides and ways to find support on a range of mental health and wellbeing issues.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This is a key part of the COVID Mental Health Response Plan I announced two weeks ago. I would encourage people to use this unique and impressive resource created as a direct response to the emotional impact COVID-19 is having on our society.”

Mental health charity Inspire is leading a consortium of community partners. Inspire CEO Kerry Anthony explained: “As restrictions ease and we begin to talk about how society moves towards recovery, we need to ensure that we pay attention to the psychological, as well as economic and physical, recovery. This online wellbeing hub contributes to that recovery in a positive way. It gives everyone who lives here access to mental health information on a full range of topics, evidence-based self-help guides to help people take steps to look after their mental health and lots of resources and ways to find support.” 

Tony Doherty, from the Healthy Living Centre Alliance, said: “The unique strength of this partnership is that the online resources are backed up with strong connections into grass-roots community structures, both urban and rural, to ensure information from the online hub is also available in a range of other formats specifically targeted at vulnerable people and communities who may not have access to online resources.”