The Chartered Governance Institute - Isle of Man

Isle of Man

Welcome to the winter edition of our Wellbeing Updates.

Winter 2022

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Wellbeing in winter 2022


Welcome to the third edition of our wellbeing newsletter. Earlier editions can be found on the Isle of Man Branch wellbeing page. The Committee has been working closely with the Head Office in London who continue to support of our work. We are currently looking at ways of improving communication and the distribution of our newsletter. The Wellbeing Committee remains dedicated to supporting our members on the Island and we would welcome feedback from members to improve our work. Ultimately it is hoped that our initiative on the Island will lead to further initiatives for the whole of the Institute.

In today’s newsletter we look at Sessional Affective Disorder (SAD), and the financial crisis including fuel and mortgage rate costs, which affects us all.

A sad season?

A sad season?

As the Autumn turns to winter, most people respond to the shorter days, with a drop in energy levels. The body seems to slow down, we can feel fatigue, we are slower to wake in the morning darkness. This follows the pattern of animals in general.

But for some people the change in energy levels can be extreme. SAD can include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased sex drive

For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

Prevalence and causes of SAD

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists about 3 people in every 100 in the UK have significant winter depressions. You should consider seeing the GP if you think you might have SAD and you're struggling to cope.

The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it's often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:

  • production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
  • production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
  • body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD

Cases of SAD appear to run in families.

Preventative measures

As already mentioned, if you think you might be suffering you must consult your doctor.

A range of treatments are available for SAD. The GP will recommend the most suitable treatment programme for you.

The NHS Website datils The main treatments as:

How we can all help

Often it is difficult for individuals to recognise symptoms or try to deny they are suffering. This is where we can all help. Be conscious of changes in mood of your friends, family and colleagues. Ask them if they are feeling ok. Ask again as we all often respond immediately with I’m fine, even when we aren’t.

Don’t judge others. Linked to this is not blaming anyone. People are more likely to talk in workplaces where mistakes happen without blame. We should all be conscious that we or others might be suffering from SAD. This might include irritability and unless understood can make the problem worse.

The Fuel Crisis

The Fuel Crisis

Today tragically we find ourselves caught up in a war. Although not directly involved the consequences of the War are far reached. Many in countries in Africa and elsewhere are starving due to the war and lack of grain. The refugee crisis has increased following the Russian invasion and of course we have all been affected by not only the increased fuel costs, but the knock-on effects to other staple goods. Inflation has reached levels not seen for decades.

In the UK the Government has implemented a scheme to limit energy prices from 1 October 2022 for 6 months. Here in the Isle of Man Island Energy Group (parent company of Manx Gas) announced that gas prices are to rise by 43.9% from September 2022.

There is now a price cap on electricity (at 22p/kWh, compared to 21.1p in the UK), with continued pressure from our members and the wider business community can we expect to see similar relief coming?  A gas cap of 7.5p /kWh would be a strong sign of support for hospitality businesses in particular.

In March 2022 the Isle of Man Government announced two financial schemes to support those on the lowest incomes and families receiving Child Benefit, following the announcement by Manx Gas that tariffs rose a further 58% from Friday 1 April 2022.

The payments outlined below are intended to support households over the coming six-month period, after which the situation will be reviewed.

Energy Support Payment

Further to Winter Bonus and Additional Winter Bonus payments made in January and March this year, a £300 Energy Support Payment will be available to households responsible for housing costs and receiving income-related benefit. In addition, people whose incomes are marginally above the levels at which Income Support would be payable may be able to claim a proportion of the Energy Support Payment. The total cost of this measure is estimated to be just over £1m, benefitting up to 3,500 households.

Family Support Payment

Additionally, £1.8million will be available to help more than 6,000 families in our community through a Family Support Payment for families receiving Child Benefit. This will provide all families receiving full rate Child Benefit with £300 per household, with a reduced rate payable to those whose household income is assessed as being between £50,000 and £80,000. Furthermore, an additional £50 will be paid to all families receiving Child Benefit with at least two children, and £100 for families with at least three children. The payments for additional children will not be reduced according to household income.

The aim was the first Energy Support Payments to be automatically made during April to those in receipt of Income Support, Employed Person’s Allowance and Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance in week commencing Monday 4 April, and who were in receipt of income related benefit for at least four weeks. Family Support Payments followed in May.

The government has said that it will be providing further support in December to people in receipt of child benefit and certain income-related benefits.

The Mortgage Crisis

The Mortgage Crisis

The mortgage crisis is potentially even more significant than the energy crisis for many people and families.

On 22 September, the Bank of England raised rates by 0.5 percentage points to 2.25% - the highest level for 14 years. It said it will "not hesitate" to hike interest rates further after the pound fell to a record low against the US dollar. Some suggest rates could reach 6% next year. That's based on the price investors are already paying to borrow money, according to data provider Bloomberg.

The Bank's monetary policy committee meets every month to decide interest rate policy.

There had been some speculation it would call an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis, but the Bank released a statement confirming it will wait until the next scheduled meeting on 3 November [after this article has been drafted].

The Bank is under pressure to put rates up because it has a target to keep inflation at 2%, but prices are currently rising at about five times that level.

When interest rates rise, about two million people on tracker and variable rate deals see an immediate increase in their monthly payments. The recent increase to 2.25% means those on a typical tracker mortgage pay about £49 more a month. Those on standard variable rate mortgages face a £31 jump. This comes on top of increases following previous recent rate rises. Compared with pre-December 2021, on average tracker mortgage customers are paying about £216 more a month, and variable mortgage holders about £163 more. With interest rates possibly set to rise 6% and an comparative increase in mortgage costs these figure could treble very shortly.

A mental health time bomb?

Viewing SAD, the fuel crisis and the mortgage rate Crisis as a whole we could be looking at yet another mental health crisis every bit as severe as the pandemic.  We all have a capacity to deal with certain level of stress in our lives, including the loss of a job, loss of friends and loved ones, moving house, divorce etc, but each of these major stressors add up. Eventually they can reach levels where we can no longer cope when mental health issues arise.

Taken in isolation we might be able to cope with increased mortgage rates, but when coupled with decisions as to whether to heat the house, or pay for food, when dealing with SAD or a assisting a loved one might prove too much. This is before we even consider those who face losing their homes due to the increasing costs.

Workplaces must be aware of the difficulties facing their staff this winter. They are not helped by the government’s decision not to recalculate the living wage on the back of huge rising costs. It is important the workplace maintains dialogue with staff. Many companies have considered one off payments, or increasing salaries in line with inflation. But businesses of course have their own rising costs.

That is where communication is important, where businesses look at any way they can help. Small changes might make a difference to someone who is just reaching breaking point. It is also in businesses interest to act. When staff are having difficulties their productivity inevitably falls, sickness increases and staff might start to look for alternative employment.

It is important, now more than ever, to watch over your friends, family and colleagues and offer help however you can. Even an outlet for someone to speak about the difficulties they are facing and knowing someone is listening can help.

For those worrying about financial hardship, or know of others in difficulties please see the following government websites:

Isle of Man Government - Benefits and Financial Support

Isle of Man Government - Debt counselling

Others’ wellbeing, our wellbeing

“If we try to secure the well-being of others, we will, at the same time, create the conditions for our own.” – Dalai Lama

Contact us

Should you wish to contact a member of the wellbeing committee for a confidential chat, their details are below:

Juan Moore:

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