Mental Health through Covid-19
Back in February, we took a look at what was then a relatively new and unknown disease, which has gone on to affect the whole of the country, and the wider world in ways that back then we could not have even imagined.
In this month’s article we thought that we would take a look at the hidden side effect of this illness that is affecting more and more people.
Covid-19 and the restrictions that the Government have put into place have had a massive effect on the mental health of many people across the United Kingdom. A study led by Across the population, the negative effects of the pandemic are likely to last longer than the physical health impacts.
Here at The Training Fox we believe that Mental Health is as important as Physical Health.
A study led by the Mental Health Foundation has shown that people’s mental health is being affected by social distancing measures and their economic consequences. The report also shows that mental health is being affected unequally across society. Some social groups are bearing much more of the mental health burden than others. It is thought that the effects are likely to deepen through the rest of the pandemic and thereafter. Some strategies are ‘self-help’ some of these strategies are available for you to read in our Mindfulness article from April 2020.
Covid-19 affecting Mental Health
According to a study 69% of adults in the UK reported feeling different levels of being worried about the effect the pandemic is having on their lives.
The most common issues affecting wellbeing are:
Worry about the future (63%),
Feeling stressed or anxious (56%), and
Feeling bored (49%).
It is believed that mental health has worsened by about 8.1% as a result of the pandemic. Groups that were already hit hardest before this pandemic began have been hardest hit throughout this current climate, including young adults and women.
A study of 90,000 UK adults were monitored for mental health symptoms throughout the first lockdown of 2020. The study found that levels of anxiety and depression fell in early June as the lockdown measures began to get lifted. The study found however that they remained high amongst young people. Households with lower incomes, people who already had diagnosed mental health illnesses, people living in urban areas and those living with children.
What has made Mental Health Worsen during the pandemic?
There are many factors that have caused mental health to worsen through the pandemic. These factors include:
- Social Isolation,
- Job and Financial Losses,
- Housing Insecurity and Quality,
- Working in a front-line service,
- Loss of Coping Mechanisms, and
- Reduced Access to Mental Health Services.
When Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced the first of the lockdowns on March 23rd social isolation came to many, particularly people living alone or those who were advised to shield.
The objective measure of Social isolation may or may not lead to the subjective feeling of loneliness. Surprisingly, the proportion of people who reported feeling lonely, either often or always, during lockdown has been similar to the pre-pandemic levels, at around 5% (2.6 million) during April. However, the report shows that groups disproportionately affected by loneliness include working-age adults living alone, those in poor health, and people in rented accommodation.
Whilst the mental health through the pandemic is the focus of this article, it is worth mentioning that social isolation has unfortunately had other concerns. For instance, a report by MPs found that in the first three weeks of lockdown 14 women and 2 children were killed as a result of Domestic Violence. Refuge a national helpline found that they received 49% more calls than usual during the first lockdown.
Job and financial losses
Lockdown has had an unequal effect on the economics of people and causes immediate impacts on mental health. The Mental Health Foundation reports over a third of people in full-time work were concerned about losing their job.
Mental health impacts on people who were unemployed were widespread and severe. A quarter reported not coping well with the stress of the pandemic, which is twice as many as those in employment, almost half were worried about not having enough food to meet basic needs, and one in five had experienced suicidal thoughts.
Housing insecurity and quality
Housing and people’s ability to afford housing are strong influences on mental health. People who rent have experienced greater financial impacts during the pandemic than those who own their homes.
During lockdown, people have spent far more time than usual in their homes. Quality of housing and the opportunities it affords – including personal and outdoor space – are highly variable.
One in eight households (12%) in Great Britain have no access to a private or shared garden, and
Black people in England are nearly four times as likely as white people to have no access to outdoor space at home (37% versus 10%).
Working in a front-line service
Throughout the first lockdown, there was a lot of love given for people on the frontline of this pandemic, mainly those working in the NHS, with the Clap for Carers movement on a Thursday night. Sadly, however, evidence from past outbreaks and pandemics, as well as early evidence from this one, indicate that we are likely to see an increase in mental health problems such as depression, substance misuse and post-traumatic stress disorder for front-line health and care workers.
Loss of coping mechanisms
The pandemic has presented new or enhanced stressors but has at the same time has diminished many of the mechanisms people typically use to cope with stress.
The most popular coping mechanisms during lockdown were staying in touch with friends and family and taking daily outdoor exercise, which has helped nearly half of the adults surveyed. Work has also been important, with the value for mental wellbeing extending beyond the financial benefits.
Reduced access to mental health services
Mental health is determined by much broader factors than access to mental health services. The services that are available are critical for people experiencing mental illness.
Sadly, even before lockdown and the pandemic mental health services were already stretched with many providers reporting an inability to meet the demand. Sadly, demand for these services are going to be much higher going forward.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports almost half of psychiatrists have seen increases in urgent and emergency cases during lockdown, but also that a similar proportion have seen falls in routine appointments.
Mind, a mental health charity, has found that almost a quarter of people who tried to access mental health services during a fortnight in April failed to get any help.
Where can I get help?
To help you with your mental health we have provided a list of support and helplines that can provide you with help and support if you are worried about your or another person’s mental health. You can view these at:
Covid-19 Signs and Symptoms
The NHS lists the signs and symptoms of Covid-19 as:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you have noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
With thanks to The Health Foundation and The Mental Health Foundation for the statistics used in this article.