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South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford has said that figures from the Department of Health underscore the impact on mental health of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DUP MLA said, "The figures from the Department of Health show that figures for antidepressant medication have been increasing over recent years. Everyone has acknowledged the further impact that Covid will have on this.

These figures already point to that impact, particularly in April and June of 2020 which showed significant increases on the previous year. Whilst the full data for 2020 will now have been published, it would seem inevitable that this trend will have extended into 2021 also. Indeed, anecdotal evidence would suggest that many people have found the lockdown since Christmas even more challenging and that could have a further impact.

The Executive has appointed a Mental Health Champion, and I know the First Minister has regularly voiced concerns over the huge challenges we will face in coming years. Isolation, loneliness and the other pressures people have faced over recent months will have had a significant impact and we must all be aware that the impact of this will be with us for many years to come.

The first step to tackling the problem will be to ensure that a way forward is charted which allows people sight of the better days ahead which have been promised for so long."

The question tabled and response from the Health Minister can be found here: