The Covid-19 pandemic has had a “dramatic effect” on the mental health of young people and will continue to do so, according to Professor Ronan O’Hare.

The Assistant Medical Director was speaking to The Impartial Reporter this week as he revealed there were as many deaths by suicide in the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH) as there were from Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic.

The shocking revelation of the number of suicides among the younger population since March is a major worry, and he believes that it could be the same again as a potential second wave looms large.

“We’ll be reporting on some serious deaths. There were as many hospital deaths from Covid as there were suicides in the SWAH during the first wave, and they were all young people.

“This [pandemic] is having a very dramatic effect on [young people] and you’ll only get the data on that maybe two years after the event,” said Professor O’Hare.

“But what we all have to be aware about is the incidents of suicide in young people, and we had a very high incident during the first wave.

“And it is young people taking their lives who, at some stage prior to that, were looking [out with] cries of help.

“It is very hard to gauge the effect the lockdown has had on young people, but I pray and hope that we don’t have the same number of suicides going forward, particularly at Christmas time, as we had in the past.”

Prof. O’Hare called on the public to be “highly vigilant” around young people and to be aware of signs that they are possibly going through a rough time, such as them going quiet or acting strangely, and that seeking the help of the mental health services is vitally important. He added that while the focus is on Covid-19, he is also worried about things such as mental health and undiagnosed cancers, and he admitted that after the pandemic there could be a “tsunami” of problems related to mental health.