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Cork Independent

Lifestyle & Leisure

50%+ of people with sight loss hit by mental health problems

Wednesday, 9th September, 2020 3:12pm

During lockdown, more than half (54 per cent) of people living with sight loss experienced a decline in their mental health.

That’s according to a recent survey by Irish charity Fighting Blindness. The survey found that many of those living with a visual impairment are already dealing with anxiety, isolation and self-esteem issues.

In the survey, 45 per cent said that pre-existing mental health problems had gotten worse during the Covid-19 crisis.

The charity is tackling the situation with a free support service that includes individual telephone counselling but also a range of online groups that focus on a peer support approach. Demand for the service has grown significantly since March and weekly mindfulness sessions and a virtual coffee morning are particularly popular.

76 per cent of people surveyed told the charity that they found it difficult to follow social distancing rules because of their eye condition. Over a quarter experienced difficulties with their grocery shopping; many struggled to secure a delivery slot with others unable to see and follow floor markings in stores.

Kevin Whelan, CEO of Fighting Blindness, said: “Covid-19 has hit everyone in the country but, without a doubt, it’s harder when you’re living with sight loss. It’s taking a toll on people’s mental health and we’re seeing an increase in demand for our counselling and support service. We’re looking forward to engaging with the new Minister for Health to highlight how vital specialised support is for people living with sight loss in Ireland.

“The survey did reveal some unexpected positives. Some of our service users told us that their social life actually improved during lockdown. When we transitioned our support groups to an online setting we saw a big increase in numbers. We provided people across the country with a regular social outlet they didn’t have before Covid-19.”

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