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Minister Ashford's Statement on COVID-19 - 9 April 2020

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Good afternoon, everyone.  

I am very grateful to have with me today two highly experienced colleagues from our Mental Health Service.  

We have Ross Bailey, who heads the service.  Ross has first-hand experience of some of the challenges coronavirus poses for our community, as he has been self-isolating for the past 7 days.  Because of this, Ross – who is well – joins us remotely.  

We also have, here in person, Dr Mark Skelding, who is one of our Consultant Clinical Psychologists.  

Gentlemen, welcome and thank you for taking the time to be with us today.  

Before we turn to the topic of mental health, I have two updates I would like to give you.  

The first is a statement the Chief Minister has asked me to read out on his behalf:  

Good afternoon. First of all I would like to thank everyone for their support and kindness over the past few days. I have been humbled by the volume of messages.  

It was important to me to keep everyone updated and I have today received my text message to say that I have tested positive for CoVID 19.  

I have been at home, self-isolating, since I first became symptomatic. I have continued to chair the national strategy group every morning and today Council of Ministers.   

I have mild symptoms and I intend to continue working from home.   

I’m not the only one who would have received a message today, and while I am fortunate to have family and friends around me, some will be on their own. Some will be receiving support from our professional staff and I cannot thank them enough for the work they are doing for our Island.  

I will keep you all up to date though these briefings which David and his guests will continue to run.   

Let us remember, the way to beat this invisible enemy is to stay at home. Our key workers are going to work to help save lives. You can do that as well. Stay at home.   

The support I have received shows the Isle of Man is greatest when we all pull together. And together we can defeat this virus.   

 The second update, is the latest coronavirus testing figures. 

Turning to today's topic then – mental health.

Over recent decades, the way society views mental health has changed beyond all recognition.

No longer taboo, there is a growing understanding and acceptance that mental and emotional wellbeing affects all of us as individuals.

In the same way that each of us can articulate and describe how we feel physically at any given time – a sore back, a headache – the same should be true for our mental and emotional state.

Mental health and wellbeing is a continuum – from low level feelings, such as anxiety and stress, to the more serious conditions we traditionally associate with mental health care.

Checking in on our mental state is something we all need to proactively do – it's no different to having our five potions of fruit a veg a day, or trying to take regular exercise.

Mental health matters. To us all. And now, more than ever.

I am acutely aware that the circumstances in which many of us find ourselves: working from home; children not at school; social distancing; self-isolation – are new experiences and that such a sudden change to our lifestyles can be unsettling.

All of these measure have been taken to protect life and avoid our health and care services from being overwhelmed by a severe spike in coronavirus cases.

But we must not dismiss the impact these lifestyle changes can have on our wellbeing: Not being able to see friends and family in person; Prolonged periods indoors; Not mixing with colleagues at work. And, of course, the understandable worry for ourselves and our loved ones in relation to contracting COVID-19.

I hope that today, Ross and Dr Selkding can give you some advice, top tips and reassurance to help your mental and emotional wellbeing at this time.

Thank you very much to both Ross and Dr Skelding for taking the time to do this – I think that has been a real help.  And thanks also, to our friends in the media for your questions.  

We end again with shout-outs to those doing remarkable work around our community.  Please do keep your nominations for Howard’s Heroes coming.  If you’re on Twitter please tag the Chief Minister using his handle @HowardQuayleMHK and the hashtag #HowardsHeroes.  

  • On the topic of mental health – our first ‘shout out’ goes to one of our fantastic mental health nurses, Helen Holder.  Helen has produced a downloadable information pack that people can access to help them with their mental health during the current pandemic. It’s a wonderful resource that Helen has developed off her own bat, having asked on social media if anyone would find such a resource useful. 600 plus replies later, I think the answer is clear.  We are currently in the process of uploading additional self-help resources, advice and information to our website in the coming days at  

    Helen is a shining example of the commitment and proactive approach being taken by professionals and the wider community.  Well done Helen and thank you.   
  • You may have heard about the amazing team effort made to bring a further shipment of personal protective equipment to our Island on Tuesday. 65,000 masks were delivered to the NSC from the UK in a little over six hours.   

    A huge thank you to those involved, the army for organising the logistics, Clipper for couriering the shipment to Liverpool, Wynne Aviation for handling the cargo in Liverpool, Loganair for delaying their plane so the shipment could be made, Menzies and all the Isle of Man Airport staff and FCX for delivering the shipment to the NSC. 

    This has been a fantastic effort by all involved to secure the equipment and make it available for use by the Island’s health care professionals.  
  • Another shout out to an ‘up north’ shop – Andreas Stores for helping older and vulnerable people in the area – they are delivering local produce, supporting our economy and always a cheerful face – a lifeline with wonderful customer care.  
  • As we know the schools have providing support for their students – so a shout out goes to Sorcha Cowin for setting up e-learning at Braddan School; along with all the support, catering and site staff at all our schools around the Island. 

Please remain at home, take care and stay safe.