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'Huge job losses and harsh austerity measures will take its toll' - Academic warns major recession could spark mental health crisis

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Professor Siobhan O’Neill

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

www.paulmcerlane.net

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

A mental health expert has said the effects of a recession brought on due to coronavirus restrictions could have big implications for psychological wellbeing.

Professor Siobhan O'Neill of Ulster University said it is essential Northern Ireland emerges from lockdown in a timely manner and as quickly as possible so that the economy can be protected.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph's Coronavirus podcast, she said one of the biggest problems that could emerge in the coming months is a recession if the economy collapses post-lockdown, resulting in wide-reaching implications in years to come.

"There are people for whom the emergence from lockdown is really important, not just for their mental health, but in terms of the economy and jobs, getting people back to work," said Prof O'Neill.

"One of the biggest problems that could result from this that would affect people's mental health is the recession. It's about emerging from lockdown in a timely way, but also as fast as we can, so we can protect the economy."

While many have been helped by job protection and assistance schemes brought forward by the Government, this is not always enough, she said.

"If there are huge job losses and harsh austerity measures after this, that's really going to impact on the mental health of the population.

"And there's going to be a cost to that as well.

"The next year or so needs to be managed very carefully to avoid austerity and job losses.

"Unemployment is a huge predictor of suicide rates and mental health problems in the population. We also need to avoid a second wave if we can.

"We need to trust that our leaders and their advisers are going to do the right thing."

The Belfast telegraph Coronavirus podcast is available on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Belfast Telegraph