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The psychological toll of coronavirus in Britain – a visual guide


Isolation, job insecurity, relationship breakdown and bereavement are causing serious psychological problems for people with no history of mental illness while up to half a million people in the UK who went untreated during the lockdown may require treatment leading to a potential “a tsunami of mental illness”.

Online surveys carried out by mental health charities Mind and Rethink found that a majority of respondents reported a deterioration in their mental health during lockdown.

A Mind poll of almost 17,000 adults and 570 young people across England and Wales, many of whom identified as having a mental health problem, found almost three in five adult respondents said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic, while 22% of participants aged 13 and over without a history of mental health problems described their mental health during lockdown as “poor” or “very poor”.



Responses to the question: ‘How has your

mental health changed in the past two

weeks?’

Responses to the question: ‘How has your mental health changed in the past two weeks?’

In a smaller survey of 1,434 people, carried out by the charity Rethinking Mental Illness between 17 April and 11 May, 78% of respondents reported a deterioration in their mental health.

Both surveys were shared through the charities’ networks and social media channels and therefore included a greater representation of people living with mental illness and are not representative of the wider population.

However, both highlighted how coronavirus has compounded the issue for the charities’ service users as they struggled to access help.



… I can’t do the activities I would normally do

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… I can’t see family or friends

… of my fear that my family or friends will catch

the virus

… of concerns I have for the future, related to the

impact of coronavirus

… I’m getting less support from mental health services

… I can’t do the activities I would normally do

… I can’t see family or friends

… of my fear that my family or friends will catch the virus

… of concerns I have for the future, related to the impact of coronavirus

… I am getting less support from mental health services

The Mind poll indicated that a quarter of those who responded who had tried to access NHS support had been unable to do so. The reasons were multifold: cancelled appointments; difficulty in reaching their GP or community mental health teams; being turned away by crisis services or issues accessing digital services.

“People needed to externalise what was going on”

In Mind’s day-to-day work, the charity had a drop in the volume of calls to its helpline; a phenomenon that may have been due to people putting their mental health issues on the backburner while they coped with the immediate and practical pressures of the pandemic, or reduced privacy and time pressures brought about by homeschooling and homeworking.

However, the average length of the calls increased by about two minutes in April and May, something the charity says may reflect an increase in the complexity of callers’ needs.

Stephen Buckley, Mind’s head of information, said: “The fact that our calls were getting longer is evidence that people did just want to talk, and needed to externalise what was going on … we extended the average call time in response to callers needing a bit more of a listening ear.”

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Emerging from lockdown

As the country adjusts to less severe lockdown restrictions, Mind is encouraging anyone who may be struggling with their mental health to reach out.

Buckley said: “Isolation, fear and grief are all taking their toll, and we know that so many people who have tried to access support have not been able to. Many more have not even sought the help they need. We are facing a mental health crisis.”

As cuts to mental health budgets and beds over the past decade continue to be felt, Rethink is calling for the government to focus on mental health:

“With the continuing uncertainty and economic challenges forecast, it is vital that mental health is prioritised with a cross-government approach established to support the wider aspects of people’s lives, which we know influence their mental health, such as employment, housing and financial problems.” said Danielle Hamm, the charity’s associate director of campaigns and policy.

For advice on mental health problems, where to get help near you, treatment options and advocacy services contact the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays) or by email info@mind.org.uk or text 86463. For a list of mental health support services for you or someone you know visit the Rethink Mental Illness website.

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