Monday 10th October is World Mental Health Day. This year has been filled with anxiety for many. January saw consumer inflation rise by almost 5% and, since then, the cost of living has continued to soar.
Rising prices having a damaging impact on mental health
We asked YouGov to survey people in Northern Ireland to find out what impact the rising cost of living was having on their behaviour and on how they feel. The responses show damaging effects on the mental health of adults in Northern Ireland:
- 79% of adults believe that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the rising cost of living.
- 66% of adults were anxious about how their finances will fare over the next 12 months.
- 26% of adults will find it difficult to attend health and social care appointments over the next 12 months.
The findings were striking and are expanded upon here. It’s undeniable that people will have difficulty, and some will find it impossible, to do the things that keep them well over the next year.
Help to release pressure caused by rising cost of living
The rising cost of living is putting us all under enormous pressure.
We need to release this pressure, for the sake of our lives, our families and our communities. This World Mental Health Day, we are sharing steps to move the gauge from red to amber. We’re highlighting steps we can all take to relieve feelings of anxiety and worry. This could include:
- Building the 5 Steps to Wellbeing into our daily routines.
- Reaching out for the help that’s available.
- Finding the right information on a range of support.
Government action is needed to tackle poverty and inequality
But individuals can only do so much. Poverty and inequality are structural issues. We need government to design structural solutions to alleviate their effects and turn the pressure gauge green — as our Chief Executive, Kerry Anthony, explains:
“The current economic and political situation is affecting us all. Our research confirms that the mental health of the population is being negatively impacted right now and people are anxious about what the next 12 months will bring.
“Through this campaign, we want to raise awareness of the steps people can take to help ease the pressure they are feeling. But there is only so much individuals can do.
“Government intervention is now urgently required to release the pressure people, families and communities are under. First, we need a Northern Ireland Executive in place to provide the policies that will protect communities this winter. We’re also calling for a multi-year Budget with an in-built cost-of-living focus, as well as a fully funded mental health strategy.”
We’re delighted to have Trussell Trust NI, Carers NI and Age NI joining us on this campaign. Over the next few weeks, they’ll be highlighting the pressures that the people who use their services are experiencing as a result of spiking prices.
Carers NI’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Craig Harrison, said:
“Unpaid carers are among the groups hardest hit by this cost-of-living crisis. They already faced above-average household bills due to their caring role and many are looking to the winter months with fear and dread as the price of energy and other essentials continues to skyrocket.
“To have a situation where carers are being forced to sit in cold, dark houses, with bare cupboards, is intolerable and requires action now.”
The Trussell Trust’s Northern Ireland Lead, Jonny Currie, said:
“Each day, we’re seeing the cost of living exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and poverty in all corners of our communities. Food bank use across our network, from April to June, increased by 30% compared to the same time last year and we expect that figure to increase in the winter months ahead.
“People simply cannot afford to turn on their cookers or do a basic food shop. Many are skipping meals to keep up with other essential costs. We cannot, in good conscience, allow life for so many people to continue like this. Continued political inaction helps no one.”
Age NI’s Head of Policy and Engagement, Eithne Gilligan, said:
“At Age NI, we are concerned that higher costs are pushing some older people into poverty. Those on low or modest incomes and fixed pensions have no room to manoeuvre when it comes to making ends meet.
“We know that some older people are cutting back their spending on food and other essentials. Fear is growing at the prospect of what the winter will bring and there is already a sense of helplessness in anticipation of what lies ahead.
“We need decisive action, immediately followed by clear information on the help that is to come to relieve the pressure.”
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