Lockdown Had ‘Major Impact’ On People In The UK’s Mental Health
New research suggests the ongoing health crisis is having a devastating impact on people’s mental health across the UK.
The news doesn’t come as a particular surprise, as millions of people have seen their 2020 so far reduced to staying indoors, working from home, and having to cancel all holidays and life events.
With a new tier system in place and the possibility of another national lockdown on the horizon thanks to an increase in infection rates and creeping death tolls, the remainder of 2020 – and a chunk of 2021 – look set to offer more of the same social restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has stated that it will be increasing investment into mental health services moving forward. While stating lockdowns are essential, it also acknowledges the ‘profound and long-lasting’ damage such rules will have on people’s wellbeing.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, delve into how the adult population handled the initial stages of lockdown and how they’ve followed the strict rules imposed at the height of national closure.
The study, conducted between March 31 and May 11, surveyed 3,000 people about their overall mental health and feelings towards depression, loneliness, self-harming, and suicidal thoughts. Alarmingly, the rates for suicidal thoughts had increased from 8% to 10%, with the 18-29 year-old bracket jumping from 12.5% to 14%. While experts deem this a relatively small rise, it is significant for the short time frame; with 1 in 4 reporting a moderate increase in depressive thoughts.
‘The majority of people did not report any suicidal thoughts, but this creeping rise over a very short period of time is a concern,’ states Professor Rory O’Connor, at University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing. ‘Levels of anxiety decreased during the same period of time, but that relates to the past. Suicidal thoughts are about looking to the future.’
‘It suggests that the huge social and economic uncertainty associated with Covid-19 may be causing some people to feel hopeless. However, there is currently no evidence that the suicide rate is increasing,’ O’Connor explained.
Besides young people and women being most impacted, those with pre-existing mental health issues or from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds were also recorded as being at higher risk.
Those who suffer from mental health issues have seen their daily lifelines and routines swiped from them, having been confined to their homes during a warm summer and possibly again as we enter the darker and colder months of the year.
One example is 29-year-old student Thomas Nevill, who has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder following the death of his father. ‘Initially I felt calmer, as I no longer needed to push myself out of my comfort zone,’ he told the BBC. ‘The crowded meeting rooms and lecture halls that regularly gave me panic attacks and anxiety were no longer a part of daily life’, which did help may with issues of anxiety or the fear of being out in public.
However, these initial feelings of relief turned to something worse. He said, ‘But the novelty wore off fairly quickly and I began to struggle without the routine. My mood dropped and my anxiety became an issue again.
‘It’s taken me a while to be comfortable meeting friends again after the fear of spreading the virus, and I’ve noticed that I am more reluctant to meet people now that more recent restrictions have come in.’
He concluded, ‘I am worried that another lockdown will cause my anxiety to get worse and my mood to drop again.’
This is a concern, as many have managed to get through the hell of the past eight months, but the idea of going back to tighter restrictions is overwhelming for some.
‘There’s no doubt the pandemic will have a lasting impact on mental health. We are really worried issues like job losses will impact further,’ Jacqui Morrissey from research funders Samaritans had to say.
Her advice? Put yourself first but also try to be thoughtful of others who are experiencing similar negative thoughts. She explained, ‘It’s essential we all look after our own mental health. However, like the first wave, we also need to continue to check in with people if we think they’re struggling.’
Remember, if you feel you are struggling, you can reach out to friends and family, because you are most certainly not alone when it comes to suffering with your mental health during this unprecedented time.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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