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Covid myths pose a bigger threat to mental health than new restrictions, an expert has warned.

Northern Ireland’s Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, said it was “inaccurate” to argue restrictions were causing mental illness, or suicidal thoughts.

She added: “People are using mental health as a reason to oppose the government’s restrictions and I’m concerned about the attitude that these restrictions are going to affect mental health.

“The restrictions are about protecting other people – it’s not about us, this is about not spreading the virus to our loved ones.”

Repeating false claims – like a recent post about a spike in people dying by suicide in NI, shared by an MLA – could be dangerous, she said.

Prof O’Neill added: “Misinformation about suicide is really unhelpful and can influence what people do in a time of crisis.

“The reality is there’s no evidence that suicide rates have increased.”

She urged people to continue to follow government guidance, and be mindful of those people who were most vulnerable.

She added: “This is a short term period that we’re being asked to do this, we need to consider others’ needs – that’s why we need to follow the restrictions. 

“We need to remember that there are groups who are really, really struggling. 

“We need to be compassionate and let them know there is hope and keep ourselves safe and stay connected in the meantime.”

If you, or someone you know is in suicidal crisis in Northern Ireland please call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

General information about mental health and services in Northern Ireland is available from WWW.MINDINGYOURHEAD.INFO

By: Jessica Black, Local Democracy Reporter

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