Tracey Paxton, managing director responsible for BHSF RISE and related services, on why people’s mental health shouldn’t be overlooked during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.
Whilst measures to slow and interrupt the transmission of COVID-19 have been essential to reduce pressures on our health systems, the impact coronavirus has had on people’s mental health cannot be ignored.
Some of us might be experiencing higher anxiety, stress and worry levels due to self-isolating alone, as others self-quarantine with partners, family and friends.
To give you an idea of the impact, findings from the Office of National Statistics has found almost half of UK adults have reported high levels of anxiety as a result of the outbreak. Four in five adults are worried about the influence the virus is having on their life and over half (53%) said it is affecting their wellbeing1.
It upsets me to see the number of people who have passed away from the virus and we are in unprecedented times. We’ve often seen so many news outlets, for instance, talk about the number of deaths and new cases daily during the epidemic. No-one is denying it’s important to talk about this.
However, has people’s mental health during the outbreak been talked about enough in the news? I’ll let you think about that.
Mental health worries
Everyone’s experience of working or staying at home will be different. Some people will have a support system around them including friends, family and pets, whereas others will be more alone. This could feel very surreal, as the feelings of loneliness and isolation can be heightened.
For individuals struggling with their mental health, this could be a scary situation, considering the circumstances we find ourselves in. A survey understanding people’s concerns about the mental health impacts of COVID-19 was carried out last month with many issues raised.
16% of Brits are concerned about the impact of isolation on people’s mental health and wellbeing, including loneliness. Over a tenth of people are worried about the mental health impacts of dealing with the practical challenges of the pandemic, including food and shopping, finances and economic issues, employment, staying safe, access to outside space and being able to plan for the future.
13% of people are also worried about access to support and services (including medication) for both mental and physical health issues2.
If you or know of anyone who has mental health issues, it is important to remember help is out there and no one should have to struggle on their own. We’re in this together and here to help.
People and communities have been practising social distancing for several weeks now and are more socially isolated than ever before. Analysis by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI has found 48% of UK adults have accepted the new way of life during the coronavirus outbreak. Having said that, 44% are suffering and 9% are resisting the changes.
93% of the suffering said they are following lockdown rules completely or most of the time, but the same percentage of them report feeling more anxious and depressed, with 64% of them losing sleep3.
As the situation changes day by day, we are dealing with much more uncertainty which can lead to people being anxious. Whether it be due to information overload, life-changing events happening or disruptions to work and personal life.
As a result of all these factors around COVID-19, it’s completely normal to have feelings of uncertainty, worry and stress.
Increase in calls
I mentioned earlier about people having concerns around accessing support for mental and physical health issues. During the epidemic, many organisations offering support have seen a surge in demand for their services.
Anxiety UK has more than doubled its helpline operating hours – from 40 to 82 per week – after a 364% increase in calls. OCD-UK, meanwhile, has seen a 35% rise in calls for support since the outbreak began4.
It’s no different here as data from our in-house provision indicates an increase in calls relating to COVID-19.
During the initial impact phase, we received shorter calls with clients getting in touch with concerns relating to:
- Anxiety caused by concerns about the outbreak and possible illness
- Loneliness caused by self-isolation and social distancing
- Stress caused by adjusting to new routines, financial and employment insecurity, staff being furloughed
- Depression caused by lack of activity or exercise, loss of normal routine or an increased caring role
Clients who called during the mid-crisis phase spoke about:
- Post-traumatic stress caused by the impact of coronavirus
- Depression caused by loneliness and isolation
- Increased risk of suicide and self-harm
- Increase in domestic violence issues
- Relationship breakdown
People have also been in touch with long-term concerns:
- Grief caused by bereavement and not being able to say their goodbyes to loved ones
- Reoccurrence of previous mental health problems
- Anxiety around a return to normality (or the new norm) and second wave of infections
- Development of harmful coping mechanisms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, increase in alcohol/substance misuse and continuation of self-imposed social distancing due to anxieties of re-integration
Looking after our mental health is of extreme importance. Our in-house service offers guidance to meet people’s needs and tackle issues presented by clients during these unprecedented times.
Increase in demand for mental health support following the pandemic will require organisations to ensure their employees have access to support which provides the highest standards of clinical expertise and service delivery.
If you or know of anyone who is feeling anxious about the coronavirus outbreak, we’re here to help. Call us today on 0800 622 552 or visit www.bhsf.co.uk/bhsf-rise.