Mental health is everyone’s business – that’s the key message from Torbay’s Director of Public Health in his Annual Report.

Mental health is the focus of the 2021 report, the first by Dr Lincoln Sargeant since he took up his post earlier this year.

Torbay was already facing challenges to the mental health and wellbeing of its population before COVID-19 came along, the report states.

But the pandemic made these challenges worse for many, with some experiencing an increase in anxiety and depression, particularly those on low incomes.

However, the report shows how our public health team has worked with partners across the Bay to address these challenges, despite the backdrop of lockdowns.

So, while loneliness increased because restrictions meant people were separated from family and friends, organisations worked together to come up with innovative solutions.

For example, the Torbay Community Helpline, one of the true success stories of the pandemic, has taken more than 25,750 calls, offering everything from mental health support, telephone befriending, financial support and domestic abuse help.

For children and young people, the Torbay Wellbeing Service offers conversations with therapists, convenient drop-in appointments and a wellbeing café for peer-to-peer support.

The hospitality and tourism industry suffered through the periods of lockdown, which meant job losses and food insecurity.

The Torbay Food Alliance reacted to this by providing more than 350,000 meals for people in the Bay since March 2020.

Self-harm and suicide were pinpointed as problems in Torbay, with rates among young adults consistently higher than regional and national figures.

To address this, Torbay Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Alliance was set up to work collaboratively.

Thanks to the work already done, plans are in place to:

  • Provide free community suicide awareness and resilience courses to the public and professionals who are likely to meet people at risk of suicide
  • Set up a Torbay community grant pot for local mental wellbeing and suicide prevention projects
  • Work with practitioners and people with experience of self-harm to better understand self-harm in Torbay.

Lincoln Sargeant said: “Without good mental health, we all suffer. With good mental health, we all thrive. This is why everyone should make mental health their business. It’s only by working together – as so many people have done so amazingly during the COVID-19 pandemic – that we can come up with the right solutions.

“As this report highlights, we have collaborated with many partners in Torbay and beyond to help residents throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so to ensure our residents lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Councillor Jackie Stockman, Cabinet Member for Adults and Public Health, said: “Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and the last 21 months have certainly shown that.

“COVID-19 has affected many people’s mental wellbeing and this report shows that we must work together to come up with innovative ways to tackle problems, particularly those experienced by the most vulnerable in our community.”

The Director of Public Health Annual Report is a professional statement on the health and wellbeing of Torbay’s population and includes recommendations to improve health and wellbeing.

Over the coming months, we’ll be focusing in more detail on what has been done over the past year and what needs to happen in the future to improve mental health locally in three areas – Starting Well, Living Well and Ageing Well.

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