Stop with the Covid scare stories…or our mental health may never recover

MY wonderful great aunty Cecilia – the matriarch on my dad’s side of the family, who I adored – died of Covid-19 in a Lancashire care home on Saturday, aged 87.

Severe dementia meant this great lady, who survived World War Two before living a modest moral life as a family-focused Catholic, was blissfully unaware of the fact she spent her final three months on earth without seeing any family members in person.

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However, the indignity of the coronavirus restrictions banning her two sons and beloved grandson from being in the room to hold her hand as she faced her final moments — thankfully with exemplary care workers — is a trauma for the entire family.

There is a seven-year-old, whose life I am closely involved in, who has started to wet the bed and is now in therapy because they are so terrified of Covid, having been forced to isolate at home for two weeks after one of their classmates tested positive. An unimaginable cruelty for a fragile youngster.

Also a close friend, who has long battled mental health problems, had an OCD explosion thanks to Lockdown II and now finds it difficult to leave the house at all.

One pal has seen their long-dormant eating disorder come to the fore, while another has been forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous as their lockdown drinking became uncontrollable.

I don’t expect any of these stories to shock you. Quite the opposite.
It’s highly likely you can share an equal number of tales of pain, heartache and psychological damage, stories of how the people you love have seen their lives blighted by lockdown.

Or perhaps you are personally feeling the mental health consequences from nine months of a global pandemic that has dominated our consciousness thanks to public health campaigns amplified by a compliant broadcast media throughout 2020.

That is understandable too — most of us are. After all, our lives have been changed in ways we could not have imagined when this virus first reared its ugly head in Wuhan, following a despicable cover-up by the Chinese communist government.

Personally, I veer from anger that we are in this situation at all, and frustration that most of our leaders refuse to acknowledge the real cost of shutting down the country, to fear that it might be years before I see my mum, dad and sister in New Zealand again.

Our leaders need to be acutely aware of that as they continue with their almost daily press conferences of gloom, without even a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel.

With all of this in mind, I was taken aback to see the Mental Health Minister, Nadine Dorries, trumpet data this week suggesting there has been “zero increase in suicide figures since lockdown”.

In a combative series of tweets, she said there had been an “irresponsible narrative” around mental health.

“There is no tsunami, no cliff edge and no explosion in suicide figures,” Nadine declared.

That type of complacency is dangerous, especially given that the London Ambulance Service last week released shocking figures showing callouts to suicides at 37 a day, compared with 22 last year.

While I would love to be proved wrong, I fear we are in the grip of the biggest mental health crisis any modern society has faced.

Our leaders need to be acutely aware of that as they continue with their almost daily press conferences of gloom, without even a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Case in point this week was Boris Johnson and Jonathan Van-Tam immediately trampling over the announcement of the first successful Covid-19 vaccine trial with more scary rhetoric about increasing infection rates and a dire second wave, even though much of the data in recent days has looked promising.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford loves hinting that his citizens should not expect to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles.

And scaremonger-in-chief Nicola Sturgeon appears to portray Covid — highly survivable for the vast majority of folk under 85 — as a new bubonic plague being swept through Scotland, no doubt by dastardly Englishmen.

There is increasing evidence we are growing wise to these unnecessary scare tactics. Despite national lockdowns, many folk are choosing to ignore the dire warnings and make their own sensible decisions about what is safe, using the knowledge we have built up over the past nine months.

A growing trust deficit between our leaders and the public is potentially so damaging, especially with the great vaccination effort coming soon. So stop trying to scare us — you will come to regret the damage you are causing to the collective national psyche, some of which could be irreversible.

Trust us with ALL the data — do not skew it as if you are dodgy propagandists attempting to make a bad situation look worse. Allow us to balance the risks in our own lives.

And, please God, stop removing opportunities like saying goodbye to loved ones that carry less risk to our safety than travelling on a train to work, but that we will never mentally recover from missing out on.


Shutting pools is not cool

SHUTTING down the entire country for all of November never made sense to me, but there are some particularly curious quirks causing extra head scratching.

It’s nonsensical surely to force gyms to shut and ban outdoor sports to fight a disease that disproportionately impacts the obese and unhealthy.

Many parents have reached out to me with concerns about their youngsters being unable to continue learning to swim, given that drowning is the second highest cause of accidental death for children under five in England.

Worryingly, 200 pools have already closed for good during this crisis, with the boss of Swim England concerned an “awful lot more” could succumb thanks to this second lockdown.

These dopey decisions should be urgently reversed.

Fergie's worth her weight in gold

AMID a tidal wave of depressing news for the Royal Family this week, Fergie’s renaissance has been a bright spot.

As an anti-obesity campaigner, the Duchess of York,speaks from a position of authority, having had her weight scrutinised more than virtually any other person on the planet aside from Oprah Winfrey.

I share a lifelong battle with the bulge and, like Fergie, always view myself as morbidly obese, no matter what my actual size.

Her soul-baring, honest contribution to the debate, which stresses that weight issues are highly complex and psychological, rather than being about greed, is an important one.

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