OLDER people in Bury are being encouraged to seek mental health support following high levels of anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Healthy Minds, a mental health NHS service in Greater Manchester, has reported a significant drop in people aged over 65 contacting the service since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Between March and May, Bury saw the sharpest fall in referrals of people in that age category ­— some 79 per cent.

Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, which provides the service, has now raised concerns that elderly people may not be seeking the help they need.

It comes after a recent Office for National Statistics report on anxiety and Covid-19 revealed an alarming trend in elderly people's mental health.

While before the pandemic over 65s consistently showed lower anxiety levels, they are now showing the highest.

Polly Kaiser, a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in older people’s mental health at Pennine Care, said: "Covid-19 presents particular risks and challenges for older people and it is no wonder that anxiety levels are high.

"They report high levels of stress and anxiety about the immediate effects of the virus and the longer term impact on their lives.

“Physical distancing can take a huge toll on all our mental health.

"If you are older and have been shielding you have not been able to access your usual support mechanisms; for example family, friends, grandchildren, clubs, gym, choir, volunteering options.

"If you live alone and are more digitally excluded than others, then the risks to mental health are even higher.”

More than 22,500 people aged over 65 are estimated to be living with depression or anxiety across Bury, Rochdale, Tameside, Oldham and Stockport; where Healthy Minds is based.

In these five boroughs there has been a 66 per cent drop in people aged over 65 seeking help for their mental health ­— equivalent to 526 fewer people ­— compared to the same time last year.

Healthy Minds offers short-term psychological therapies to people suffering from anxiety, depression and stress.

Dr Sheena Aspil, a clinical psychologist at Healthy Minds, said: “Throughout this pandemic we have continued to offer vital mental health support through video and telephone consultations as well as digital online therapies.

“Whilst we recognise that some older people may feel they are unable to access our services digitally; our research shows that those who have done so tend to do very well, often reaching recovery and making some significant life improvements.

“We want anybody who may be struggling, or who have friends and family members who may need help at this current time, to know we are still here to offer help, support and advice.”

For more information on Healthy Minds and how to refer yourself visit penninecare.nhs.uk/healthyminds.