A Dundee man battling depression has urged others to reach out for help and not to be put off seeking support during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kevin MacDonald, 42, managed to get treatment for alcoholism, depression, and anxiety but worries others may be fighting battles alone behind closed doors.
The UK and Scottish governments have been urging the population to stay at home for much of the past year.
Officials fear Covid-19 cases could spiral out of control and see hospitals overwhelmed.
But Kevin, who grew up in Broughty Ferry and now lives in Lochee, says the messaging put him off reaching out to his GP.
He fears if it wasn’t for his partner he may not have survived.
He said: “I just thought ‘ach there’s enough going on at the minute’.
“I didn’t want to trouble people unnecessarily because the whole message was to protect the NHS.
“I just thought I’ll leave it a day or two and see how I feel.
“That was maybe the wrong way.”
Kevin stressed he was lucky because he was already being well supported by NHS Tayside’s community mental health team.
But he said he could see how some people will “slip through the cracks” during Covid-19.
Research says Brits avoiding medical help
It comes as new research published by telehealth provider HealthHero suggests 34% of UK adults have avoided going to their GP with problems due to Covid-19.
The Europe-wide healthtech company, which allow users to tap into medical services through video calls, online chats or phone calls, say 45% of respondents did so to prevent overburdening the NHS.
In recent public health messages, the Scottish Government has sought to make clear anyone struggling physically or mentally should still seek medical help.
GP practices and hospitals remain open, with staff making decisions on appointments based on risk of infection, clinical need and service capacity.
They may decide a home visit is necessary or arrange an appointment at a practice.
Patients have also been offered a consultation or appointment over the telephone or through a video-calling service.
NHS could see severe pressure after Covid-19
Dr Chris Morris, medical director at HealthHero and practising GP, warned the NHS may be over-burdened after the pandemic.
He said: “The scale of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is only beginning to be determined, but what has become apparent over the past few months are the pandemic’s ‘secondary’ casualties, those people with non-Covid-19 health issues that were dissuaded from seeking medical help with their NHS GP.”
He said the company’s research however does show an overwhelmingly positive response from those who have had virtual GP appointments.
This new remote service delivery, he says, should be embraced in future months and years to support an expected influx of patients with illnesses unrelated to Covid-19.
Kevin added: “I feel Covid-19 will be forgotten about in years to come but we’ll be left with more people fighting things like cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and depression.
“These people may not have gone to the doctor over the past year because of the pandemic.
“Mental health in particular needs to be taken much more seriously.
“It’s just so important to check on people. Everyone kind of needs to become a GP and ask how they are doing.”