A campaign for better access to mental health services has been started by a man who worries more people could be affected by depression than by Covid-19.

Samuel May, who has suffered with anxiety himself is leading the charge for better support in Swindon and Wiltshire.

He has set up a campaign group on Facebook and is producing a report to send to the council and MPs outlining the situation and suggesting improvements to support.

He said: “Mental health support should be the same priority as Covid at the moment. To be honest it wouldn’t surprise me if more people committed suicide than sadly passed away from Covid by the end of the pandemic.

“The virus pandemic is a national emergency but no one is addressing the mental health pandemic happening at the same time. People who never had problems before are finding they are suffering.”

Samuel, from central Swindon, runs the Swindon and Wiltshire Mental Health Support Group on Facebook which he started when the first lockdown began in March. It now has 450 members.

“At the start of the pandemic all the charities were closed for face to face meetings,” he said. “All people had was a phone number to ring.

“So I started the group to give people an ear to listen to them,” he said.

“The lockdown really has had a big impact,” Samuel said. “The confusion about rules. Mass anxiety about going out in public.And of course people staying at home completely isolated, not able to see family or go out. There have been a lot of things which have contributed this problem.

“I’ve seen so many people unable to get access to mental health support when they need it,” he said.

“The problem is the waiting times. People are waiting over six months and that’s not good enough with mental health, it should be immediate. Otherwise it’s pointless. It’s difficult because people can’t get to a GP or get through on the phone lines.”

Samuel, who works for Aval also conducted a survey on Facebook about how Covid-19 has affected people’s mental health in Swindon.

“I surveyed 100 people and the results were just completely shocking - 82 per cent of people who answered said there wasn’t enough support for mental health in Swindon.

He said 22 percent of participants said they had/have thoughts of ending their life during Covid. “That is such a lot. That’s one in five people. If you think about the whole of Swindon that is crazy.”

He added: “The situation is just scary and it’s now time to change things. The idea is for the group to become a voice so we can make those changes. Because I really do worry about the figures at the end of the year for suicides, with so many people struggling in silence.”