Mental health groups in Aberdeen have warned the new stricter lockdown rules will leave people “worn down” and “deflated”.
New restrictions mean people are only permitted to leave their homes for essential purposes, including exercise and shopping.
Graeme Kinghorn, a director at Mental Health Aberdeen, has warned the move “couldn’t come at a worse time” at what is already a difficult time of year for many people.
He said: “We’re essentially going back to where we were at the end of March 2020. It’s essentially a full lockdown.
“It’s probably going to come as more of a shock, I suspect, to people this time around because we had the good news of the vaccine just before Christmas and then you go into the Christmas period and everybody relaxes a wee bit.
“Then all of a sudden we’re hit with these new restrictions which probably couldn’t come at a worse time, for all sorts of reasons.
“Lockdown in the summer time, for a lot of people, wasn’t as bad as it could have been purely because the weather was decent and in April and May a lot of people were out and about doing their exercise, etc.
“It’s much more difficult to do that now. It’s dark, if you’re working all day at home then you’re going to have to try and take your breaks when you can, it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s wet. None of these things helps to lift your spirits.
“I think the timing coming right off the back of Christmas when people had maybe begun to relax a little bit, it’s really not good news from our perspective in terms of how it’s going to affect the ordinary man in the street.
“People have been worn down and it gets harder and harder for their resilience to cope with things like this.”
Graeme said the move meant the charity would have to go back to using the phone and Zoom to deliver its services.
He added: “We’ll have to close down, almost completely, the hubs that we have where people come in and receive counselling. None of that is our preferred method of delivery.
“We’ll have a number out so that people can phone directly into that helpline, they don’t need to be referred by a GP.
“If they want to speak to somebody they’ll be able to use the helpline, which operated pretty successfully during the summer.
“We’d begun to ease it off but obviously now we’ll have to go right back to it because for some people it’s their only point of contact.
“People are just going to feel really deflated. This is not a good time of year normally, off the back of Christmas, people going back to work.
“You’ve got that on top of, if you’ve got kids, doing the homeschooling because schools are closed.
“All it’s going to do is put pressure on an already very pressurised system from our point of view.
“This is probably the worst time of year, I would have thought, to go back into this almost full lockdown situation. But if we have to do it, everybody really needs to try and abide by it.”
Graeme said a new helpline number would be posted on Mental Health Aberdeen’s social media pages in the coming day or two.
Meanwhile, Kirsty MacNeil, a development coach with Aberdeen Foyer’s impact project said the pandemic had left many people feeling isolated, but emphasised that help was there.
She said: “We are a group for people with long-term mental health conditions. It’s a self-management group so it’s all based around helping people self-manage their own conditions on their own terms.
“Throughout this, we’ve been on Zoom from the first day of lockdown trying to provide as many sessions as possible, anything from chatting to goal-setting to arts and crafts and anything we can to bring people together.
“I think what everyone has found the most difficult has been the isolation and not being able to see the people they love.
“I had a discussion recently with some of our clients and they were saying even if they had preferred to be on their own before being forced into that situation, it’s been really, really hard for them to be told they’re not allowed to go to places they enjoy like coffee shops and groups like at the Foyer and see people who have been supporting them.
“It’s incredible how much the people that we work with have achieved even though they’ve been locked down for a year and the fact here’s still that motivation to work towards positive goals.
“Yes people feel quite down because we’re back to where we started, but also it’s made people realise it’s in their own hands to get out there and get the help they need from what’s still available and to make positive goals where they can.
“We might not all be in the same boat, but we’re going through the same storm. I think there’s still really good support in Aberdeen for people and if they reach out it is there.
“We at the Foyer will absolutely do our best, and have done throughout this, to meet people on their own doorsteps when we can, or go out for walks with them when we could, and we’ll continue to do that, so the help is there.”
For more information about Aberdeen Foyer and project impact visit bit.ly/3rSI38N