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Mental health issues are presently the biggest concern to the people of Arran, a new community survey has found.
A total of 79 per cent of respondents to the survey were worried about the mental health of others or of their own. Financial worries, social isolation, job security and fear of the unknown were also high among their concerns.
It may be the starkest warning yet of the long-term problems which could be mounting up and the hidden cost of the coronavirus pandemic. Asked what is concerning you at present? The top answer was others mental health at 44 per cent, with personal mental health not far behind on 35 per cent.
Chairman of the Arran Recovery Group Tom Tracey, who carried out the survey, said: ‘From the survey, many of the concerns expressed are probably contributing factors to poor mental health and are all exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. They will only start to recede as the crisis recedes. In the meantime, folks need to be aware of the help that is already here as well as suggesting what help needs to be added.’
As a result, the survey recommends that there should be an urgent assessment of the effectiveness of current strategies and consider if additional support is required.
Other recommendations are to maintain and re-enforce the current information flow and service provision in support of Covid-19 compliance.
There is general support for most of the programmes within The Arran Recovery Plan, however, require more community discussion.
Increase focus on creating and implementing a joined-up travel and transport plan. This is seen as the major island priority, including a priority ferry booking process for the community.
The second community survey was carried out last month, online and with a paper copy in the Banner, and was a follow-up to the initial survey in May. It attracted 315 responses, well down on the 900 responses in May but still represented six per cent of the population.
In summary, there was a consensus that the public and businesses had complied to Covid-19 guidelines on Arran, with only three per cent advising that they disagreed, and the vast majority of the respondents felt there had been some positive experiences as a result of the crisis.
Half the respondents considered travel and transport a main priority for the island, followed by health and social care, tourism, quality of life, affordable housing and governance.
Responses were strongly in favour of retaining ferry capacity to be released on the day to support the community. The process needs clarity and promotion to offer islanders priority and assist planning ahead.
Overall there is a strong sense of community cohesion on Arran. While residents generally felt they had enough information and support, 26 per cent felt there had not been enough financial support given. This could exacerbate, and may be reflected in, aforementioned concerns regarding mental health.
Environmentally, 70 per cent of participants believe Arran should utilise this time to mitigate against and adapt to climate change. Some of the ways islanders have been reducing their own carbon footprint included buying local, composting, travelling less. Car is still the predominant mode of travel, with public transport timings noted as being unsuitable by a quarter of respondents.
Concerns about Arran’s economy appear to be slightly less than in May 2020, although 49 per cent of businesses responding also indicated their ability to operate had been reduced from 30 to 50 per cent due to the Covid-19 restrictions, which could offer long-term challenges. However, while there appears to be increased optimism about the island’s economy, it must be noted that this survey was undertaken before level 3 restrictions were imposed and the recent increase in positive Covid cases seen on the island.
A total of 96 per cent of respondents agreed that businesses on Arran had responded appropriately to all restrictions in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines. Although this could be expected, this is appreciated by the community and not taken for granted.
Asked what has been the most positive aspect of the Covid-19 restrictions and what would you like to preserve going forward, nearly 50 per cent said community spirit and support, with time spent outdoors and time with loved ones also scoring highly.
Help is at hand
One of the ways people on Arran can address Covid-induced isolation is by contacting the Keep Arran talking initiative.
Launched in April by the Arran Community and Voluntary Service (ACVS) it has helped many who have endured social isolation during the pandemic and is available on 01770 600611. Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
Other sources of help:
The Arran Ear
Support for people feeling anxious or distressed because of the current pandemic) Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Tel: 01770 649506.
Tel: 0800 838 587. Provides support with low mood, depression or anxiety.
Tel: 0800 678 1602
Tel: 116123 (Lines open 24 hours) Provides support for those who are suicidal or despairing.
Scotland’s Citizen Advice helpline
Tel:0800 028 1456
Tel:01294 310456. Provides advice on Welfare Rights, assistance or representation in relation to benefits
Tel:0800 221 8089. Provides further assistance or advocacy forissues with energy suppliers)
Tel:01294 475636. Provides free and confidential advice, information and advocacy support on housing, welfare rights and debt related issues for all residents in North Ayrshire and Arran.