A mental health crisis could be about to hit Cumbria due to the coronavirus pandemic, a health expert has warned.

Peter Rooney, chief operating officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, told a meeting of Cumbria County Council's health and wellbeing board that a number of factors arising from the outbreak and lockdown meant people across the county would face "significant psychological stress."

He said: “Sadly not only from bereavement but also from the impact of significant social isolation, a significant period of anxiety and as it unfolds from the economic impact of the virus, there will be very many people across Cumbria who experience significant psychological stress of different types.”

Mr Rooney reassured the board that the issue was not being ignored and that work was going on behind the scenes to try to reduce that impact.

He said: “There are lots of discussions about how we can increase support around psychological wellbeing and I’d suggest that may be a feature that we would want to return to at a future board meeting.”

It was revealed at the meeting that modelling from the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust in the North East had predicted a five-year swell in emotional health and wellbeing needs and Emma Graham, the county council's lead in a multi-agency intelligence group, said there was nothing to suggest that that wouldn’t also be the case in Cumbria.

The board was warned by third sector representative Colin Ranshaw that 6,000 people could need bereavement counselling across the county and council leader Stewart Young felt that had been exacerbated by the inability for people to visit loved ones before they died or have normal funeral arrangements.

“That will be a priority for this board in terms of dealing with some of the mental health issues that will arise from all of that," Mr Young added.

Sue Stevenson, chief operations officer at Healthwatch Cumbria, presented a "social narrative" to the board of how the pandemic had affected people’s lives.

The organisation, which gathers public opinion to feed into health and care services, ran an online survey across Cumbria and Lancashire which has been completed by 1,179 people through three different versions so far.

People said they had experienced increased anxiety due to juggling working from home with other duties like schooling children and were struggling without close contact with family.

Other concerns raised through the survey were the financial hit, a lack of support for people with caring responsibilities and the increased risk of domestic or child abuse to people who were spending more time at home.

However, it was noted that some people talked about positive impacts which had come out of the pandemic like less travelling, more focus on exercise and an increased appreciation of other people.

Ms Stevenson sensed a "nervousness and reluctance" about the easing of lockdown restrictions and said a lack of clarity in information put out at various stages of the pandemic had led to confusion.

John Rush, chair of the NHS North Cumbria CCG, presented data from a survey carried out by the Allerdale and Copeland Youth Council which he said provided an insight into how young people had experienced the pandemic.

The majority of the 1,450 West Cumbrians aged between 11 and 18 who responded to the survey said their mental health and wellbeing had only been mildly affected by the pandemic.

Of the 626 who answered a question about whether they could access mental health support if needed, 56.9 per cent said they would deal with it themselves, 30.9 per cent said they could access help through the NHS or other organisations and 12.3 per cent said they could not get support.