Chronicles

This must be the final lockdown, North East MP tells Boris Johnson

People have paid “a very high price” during lockdowns, with damage to their mental health and an increase in those contemplating suicide, a North East MP has warned.

Ian Levy, Conservative MP for Blyth Valley, said the third nationwide lockdown, which is currently under way, had been the hardest.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he warned Government Ministers: “The post-Christmas dark days that hit many people every year have just seemed too much to bear for some.

“Dark days and cold weather have limited the opportunity for outdoor exercise for many.

“The absence of support from family has gone on too long.

“Children are missing school friends, and parents are missing support, often struggling to work while home-schooling their children.”

He said he backed the lockdown because it was needed to control coronavirus, but he asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “Will he assure the House that although we will all be happy to see a relaxation of the lockdowns where possible, he will be guided by the science and do all he can to ensure that this truly is the last lockdown?”

A number of studies have highlighted the impact of lockdowns on mental health.

Research funded by the Samaritans found that suicidal thoughts increased over the first six weeks of the UK’s lockdown in 2020, although other factors related to suicide risk, such as symptoms of anxiety, decreased across the same period.

It found that younger adults, aged 18 to 29, were more likely to report suicidal thoughts, with 14% reporting they had considered taking their lives.

Mr Levy said: “When, almost a year ago, we entered lockdown across the globe, there was some degree of optimism that this would be a quick process and before too long we would return to normal.

“The lockdown went on a lot longer than people thought it would, but the weather slowly improved and there was a reasonable sense of optimism that kept people going.

“The November lockdown was announced as being short, with Christmas and the hope of meeting up with loved ones as a promised reward at the end, if possible.

“The current lockdown, however, has been very different.”

He added: “Let me be absolutely clear: I have no doubt whatever that this lockdown, like others before it, was needed, but so many people have paid a very high price.

“Mental health across the generations has been severely impacted. All too often, people are struggling to see a way forward.”

Government Minister Penny Morduant said: “We have been working across government on mental health support”.

Proposals would be published shortly, she said.

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