This week, the Government announced the ‘Are you Ok?’ campaign, a response to the damaging effects COVID-19 has had on many Manxies’ mental health. The scheme is encouraging us to chat and open up to one another, to reduce some of our anxieties. We caught up with the Chief Minister and Dr. Henrietta Ewart to find out more about the campaign…

What exactly is ‘Are you OK?’?

Beyond encouraging us all to talk openly, ‘Are you OK?’ has its own website with useful resources, a hashtag (#areyouokmann) and a colouring in sheet that you are encouraged to put in your home or office window.

This sounds familiar…

It’s not too dissimilar from ITV’s ‘Britain get Talking’ campaign from earlier this year, is it? But as always, Manx solutions to Manx problems; the list of resources is specific to the Island, and there’s certainly a community feel to this scheme; Howie is encouraging us all to look out and talk to each other.

Do we know how big the mental health issue is on the island?

Dr. Henrietta explained that telephone surveys with Islanders have been varied. For some people, lockdown allowed them to reconnect with things important to them, while for some people lockdown was “dreadful” and anxiety-inducing. As we’ve not seen the back of COVID-19, Dr. Henrietta has acknowledged that the long term stress of the pandemic may “tip some people into actual anxiety or depression that would be at the level of a diagnosable disorder”.

According to figures released by The Office for National Statistics today, in the UK double the number of people experienced depression in June 2020 compared to July 2019. Almost 1 in 5 adults were experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic, almost doubling around the figure of 1 in 10 before the pandemic.

So what is the long term strategy for improving local mental health provision? 

Howard would “love to wave [his] magic wand and say here’s an extra 20 million for the health service”, but the treasury minister doesn’t know what money is coming in this year from VAT and other taxes. He did say, however, should there be a need, the money would be found somewhere – but he doesn’t want to be writing blank cheques. 

Dr. Henrietta hopes that this scheme can prevent mental health problems developing and reduce the necessity for referrals to the mental health services and so pressure placed on them. 

Couldn’t the money for this scheme go into the mental health services?

According to the Chief Minister, this scheme isn’t costing much at all. 

So, what is this campaign aiming to do?

Look, Howard has made it clear; “you’re not going to recover overnight [from anxieties] from a chat but it’s the start of the recovery”. The key here is to try and build resilience within the community before the diagnosable issues develop. 

You can find out more about the campaign and check out the available resources here;

https://covid19.gov.im/areyouok

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