ON what is said to be the most depressing day of the year, better known as Blue Monday, Cornwall Council's public health team is reminding people they are not alone support is available for anyone experiencing mental health difficulties

The reminder comes on the third Monday in January (January 18), said to be the saddest day of the year due to a combination of bad weather, long nights and the post-Christmas comedown.

With the nation in lockdown, this year’s Blue Monday could be an especially low point for many people.

Statistics suggest that the number of people experiencing possible anxiety and/or depression in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has roughly doubled since the pandemic began.

Concerns focused on finances, the health of family members, fears around catching the virus, isolation and loneliness, and uncertainty about the future.

In response, Cornwall Council and its partners across the health and social care system have pulled together a range of materials including guides, web links, phone apps, z-cards for wallets and crucial information and contact details for anyone who finds themself in crisis.

Many can be found on the council's web pages and here on the council's media release.

Support is being offered virtually as well as face-to-face (when restrictions allow), with targeted work going on in high-risk groups and communities. Initiatives include social prescribing at GP practices, a mobile crisis lorry run by charity Valued Lives, and expansion of debt management and mental health advice and support via Citizens Advice Cornwall and the Pentreath mental health charity, under the Mhend project.

More on Mhend (Mental Health Employment Needs and Debt advice), which is aimed at helping the most vulnerable communities, can be found on the Pentreath website.

Dr Richard Sharpe, public health advanced practitioner at Cornwall Council specialising in mental health, said: “It is crucial that people know help and support are available if they find themselves struggling with their mental health.

“Feedback from across our communities suggests people are feeling more anxious but may not be coming forward for help and support with their wellbeing. There is also evidence that some people who are already known to mental health services are attending with more severe symptoms which are requiring more intensive support.

“I would urge people to follow the Five Ways to Wellbeing, listed below, and generally to take time to relax, eat well, stay hydrated, and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle that includes good quality regular sleep patterns. We have also provided a number of links below if you need more specific help and support with your mental wellbeing.”

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are:

1. Connect – Lockdown or self-isolation doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with friends and loved-ones through social media, email, facetime/video calling or a good old-fashioned phone call.

2. Be active – Staying active is vital for your physical and mental health, and lockdown doesn’t mean this is off limits. Check out the Healthy Cornwall website for ideas.

3. Keep learning – Trying a new hobby or learning something new is a great way to keep the mind active so why not learn a musical instrument, try your hand at photography or become a crossword expert?

4. Give - Supporting vulnerable people and/or volunteering can help you make new friends as well as make a huge difference in your community. For more information visit the Volunteer Cornwall website.

5. Take notice – Try to be mindful of your environment and make the time to get as much sunlight, fresh air and nature as you can, while still sticking to the rules.

Cllr Sally Hawken, Cornwall Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children, Wellbeing and Public Health, said: “It’s OK to not be OK, and no one has to face things alone – this is our message to people.

“Being worried in these incredibly difficult times is completely understandable and being in lockdown for the third time means it is more likely people will experience feelings such as anxiety, loneliness and being overwhelmed.

“But we want everyone to know that help and support is there so please take the time to check out what’s available. This could help you improve your own mental wellbeing as well as the mental health of other people in your community.”

Tim Francis, head of joint strategic commissioning for mental health and learning disability at NHS Kernow, said: “We are reaching out to even more people with targeted schemes. This includes people in our farming and fishing communities as well as those in our more rural towns and villages.

“Providers from – statutory, third and voluntary sectors are collaborating to tackle the impact of the pandemic to make sure people can access the support they need.”