Calls to Larne Well-being Hub service double during lockdown period
A free online counselling service is being provided by Larne Well-being Hub to support the community through the Covid crisis.
It is one of a number of services which are available to enable people to share their worries during lockdown.
A leading doctor has warned that GPs across Northern Ireland are bracing themselves for a “tsunami” of mental health cases after the easing of lockdown.
Dr Laurence Dorman said that if the shielding period for vulnerable people is extended, this will have a “significant impact” on their mental health.
According to Larne Well-being Hub counsellor Bea McRandal, loneliness is one of the biggest issues raised by those who have availed of its services.
Other issues that have come to the fore during lockdown, she said, are anxiety, depression, parental and financial stress.
“It is a very challenging time. People are very down on themselves,” she stated.
She indicated that some people are experiencing a “crisis response”.
“Our bodies are automatically primed to look out for a threat or danger.”
She noted that feelings of loneliness are prevalent for those who have no help and support and are not engaging with family.
She urged people to remember “it’s OK not to be OK” and highlighted five steps to well-being, published by the Public Health Agency – connect with others, be active, take notice of habits, keep learning and to give.
Before lockdown, visitors to the hub at the Moyle Medical Building were able to come along for informal drop-in sessions. The average age of those in attendance were in their 40s and 50s.
A “drop-in” facility is now available online.
Bea said that the services of the hub are also being recognised by GPs who have been referring patients for talking therapies.
The hub has developed from the PAL service which was established in Larne 10 years ago this month.
The team of five counsellors, some of whom have specialisms, have a wide range of skills including working with young people who have been affected by trauma.
The hub also offers counselling for children from the age of four years upwards.
Bea indicated that for the first two weeks of lockdown in March, the hub received approximately 20 calls a week. This has now risen to 45, including “check-ins” when counsellors are in regular contact with a number of people.
“People really appreciate someone taking time out to check in on them.”
One to one counselling sessions are available by telephone or online by Zoom with requests coming from across East Antrim and further afield.
“We have always had a policy that we will never turn anyone away based on their postcode especially at the moment”, she commented.
The mental health charity has been successful in securing funding from Mid and East Antrm Borough Council, Housing Executive and National Lottery.
Larne Well-being Hub can be contacted by ringing 028 28 273335, emailing [email protected] or through the hub’s Facebook page.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter