Figures show 'around one in nine' Leeds people had depression last year, raising fears over continued toll of Covid-19 pandemic

Mental health experts in Leeds fear it could be years before the full impact of the “devastating after-effects” of the pandemic on our well-being is realised - as worrying figures show around one in nine people in the city suffered from depression even before the virus hit.

By Joanna Wardill
Monday, 10th May 2021, 4:45 am

Charity Leeds Mind has reiterated its fears over a “tsunami” of mental health repercussions due to the coronavirus pandemic and revealed the number of people asking the charity for help has almost doubled since April 2020.

It also called for a stronger Government approach to tackle the widening inequalities in care as NHS figures show how rates of depression vary widely across the city.

Analysis of NHS estimates by the House of Commons Library shows 10.9 per cent of adults GP patients across Leeds had a diagnosis of depression in 2019-20.

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Mental health is back on the agenda for Mental Health Awareness Week. Picture: PA

This was slightly lower than the 11.5 per cent average across England, according to the figures which run from April 1 2019 to March 31 2020.

But of Leeds’ 107 areas, rates were highest in Osmondthorpe and Neville Hill where 16.5 per cent were depressed.

At the other end of the scale was Harehills North where 7.4 per cent of patients were depressed.

It comes as the nation marks Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from today until May 16 and aims to push the topic to the top of the agenda - this year at a time when many will be struggling.

Helen Kemp, chief executive of Leeds Mind.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has continued to shine a light on the issue of mental health through our #SpeakYourMind campaign which was first launched in 2017.

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Leeds Mind’s chief executive Helen Kemp said it is “critical” vulnerable groups in Leeds are not forgotten in the Government’s Covid-19 mental health recovery plan.

She cited Healthwatch Leeds figures which showed 90,000 Leeds residents are offline or lack basic digital skills - ruling them out of being able to access what was the primary method of mental health help during the lockdowns.

She said: “Coronavirus has highlighted and deepened the health inequalities that already existed,” adding: “It is critical that we are proactive about mental health and work together to take preventative steps that will help everyone now.”

The Government’s £500m mental health recovery plan focuses on those with severe mental illness, children and young people and frontline staff as top priorities but Ms Kemp said support also needs to be directed towards those with “poor socio-economic backgrounds or racialised communities”.

“That’s especially important here in Leeds where 26 per cent of the local population lives in some of the 10 per cent most deprived areas in the country and 18 per cent of our population is from an ethnic minority background,” she said.

Ms Kemp said “illness and bereavement, furlough, unemployment and financial worries, or social isolation” are some of the many “difficult circumstances” of the pandemic that will have impacted people’s mental health.

She warned: “The mental health impact of coronavirus has been described as a ‘tsunami’, with the pandemic as a catalyst and the mental health repercussions as the devastating after-effects.

“It could be months or even years before we fully recognise the toll this period has taken on our collective wellbeing.”

The Government said it is providing an additional £2.3bn a year by 2023-24 for mental health services.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Hundreds of billions have been spent to help those most in need throughout the pandemic, safeguarding jobs, boosting welfare support, raising the living wage and introducing the £269m Covid Local Support Grant to help children and families stay well-fed.”

Important websites and numbers:

West Yorkshire mental health 24/7 support line, provides confidential advice - 0800 183 0558

Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service, for anyone aged 17 or over:

For children and young people:

For those struggling with alcohol and drug use:

Leeds Mind: 0113 305 5800, or email [email protected]

For people in crisis:

Connect, open 6pm-2am on 0808 8001212 or online chat at www.lslcs.or.yk

For people in crisis: Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s 24/7 single point of access on Freephone 0800 183 1485.

Samaritans Leeds - 116 123 or 0113 245 6789

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