Mental Health Champion on cost of living crisis: ‘Know you’re not alone and make sure to ask for help’

The Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland has said that the best thing people can do amid the current cost of living crisis is to know when to ask for help and to “ensure you know you are not alone”.

As households across the region are struggling to make ends meet, coupled with the recent Bank of England interest hike and the sliding value of currency, this has had a harrowing impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing who are worrying about what the future may hold.

According to a 2015 study, financial crises was a contributory factor in at least one in five suicides in middle aged men and in over 1,600 suicides in Northern Ireland.

Professor Siobhan O’Neill has said that her primary concern at the minute is many people panicking about not being able to pay bills and are left feeling suicidal.

“People will be worried about losing their homes, their jobs or not being able to feed their families and the worry is that it will leave many feeling suicidal, so it is so important now more than ever to ask for help and talk about those feelings,” she told Belfast Telegraph.

“They may find it overwhelming and perhaps difficult to talk about, so it is important to know these crisis and suicide prevention organisations are there to help,” she added.

The mental health champion said it is important people take control of what the ever-moving financial situation is and to reach out for advice and help as soon as possible.

“Of course like any problem, asking for help to solve the issue is the most important step you can take so talk to financial advisors, advice agencies, your energy provider or to your bank and address the issue as soon as possible,” she said.

“You have to remember what you are going through is not unusual so you should not feel embarrassed about addressing the issue which is affecting so many of us at the minute — know you are not alone.

Stress is also important to manage in this type of situation, she added.

“It all comes back to the four pillars of practising good mental health and wellbeing — eating the right food, getting enough sleep, finding time for exercise and also making those connections within your social network,” said Professor O’Neill.

“All of these things can help reduce the effects of stress on your body.

“And if you find your social network of friends and family too difficult to talk to — maybe because the issue of finance could feel stigmatising or uncomfortable — there is always someone to talk to through phoning Samaritans or Lifeline.”

The mental health expert said that by managing what you are exposed to can also help to maintain positive wellbeing amid the financial crisis.

“This is an ever-moving situation so staring at the news or social media all day is not helpful,” she said.

“Control your exposure and know what you can and cannot control within this ever-moving situation.”

If you are in distress or despair call Samaritans on 116 123 free from any phone.

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See also: Professor Siobhan O’Neill calls on MLAs for urgent action to mitigate cost of living crisis