Why Mental Health Matters amid the Pandemic
Coronavirus is, understandably, the major health concern of the pandemic. But 2020 has also put unprecedented pressure on the mental well-being of the general public, and on mental health care services.
During the first months of lock down, studies revealed a noticeable increase in the level of stress and anxiety recorded in the UK. As well as concerns about the health implications of coronavirus, people reported feeling more anxious about issues such as financial security, job prospects and family welfare. According to a Royal College of Psychiatrists survey, the situation led to 43% of UK psychiatrists seeing an increase in “urgent and emergency” cases during May.
The same study, however, also found that 45% of UK psychiatrists saw a fall in the number of routine appointments, leading to concerns of a “tsunami” of cases occurring when lock down was eased. Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, explained at the time that “We are already seeing the devastating impact of Covid-19 on mental health with more people in crisis. But we are just as worried about the people who need help now but aren’t getting it. Our fear is that the lock down is storing up problems which could then lead to a tsunami of referrals.”
Reports have emerged that some mental health services are now seeing this increase in demand, particularly since face to face appointments have been resumed. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Nick Lake, head of psychological services at Sussex partnership NHS trust, said that “Mental health services are under intense pressure. Our services will have more demand over the next six months to two years due to the physical and psychological effects of Covid, as well as the social and economic impacts of the virus.”
The situation could lead to people in genuine need being unable to access vital mental health care support, a scenario which could be exacerbated by the ongoing recession and difficult economic climate.
The Mental Health Foundation, which has been studying the relationship between mental illness and the pandemic since March, recently reported some improvement in statistics, with 64% of respondents saying “they are coping well with the stress of the pandemic”. Of those who are experiencing stress, 87% say they are using at least one coping strategy.
The Foundation suggests that the strategies most widely used are “going for a walk, spending time in green spaces, and staying connected with others”. Other strategies include “limiting exposure to social media”, limiting exposure to news about Covid-19, maintaining a healthy diet and ensuring good sleep patterns.
The Foundation is also recommending increased investment to support communities, with a particular focus on providing more literature and resources to help people sustain their own mental well-being, and to become more resilient to future lock downs or uncertainties caused by the ongoing pandemic.
Depression is a cruel and unkind illness for anyone to experience, and feeling anxious or stressed is something all of us are likely to feel at one time or another. There are lots of resources available to help you during these difficult times, and we’ve linked a few below which we hope will help.
Students at Oxford Business College are also able to keep in contact with our welfare team, who are here to help you with worries, anxieties or concerns you may have.
You might feel alone when you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and that your friends, family, classmates, tutors and colleagues are here to support you. We’re all in this together.
Useful Mental Health Resources
NHS Mental Health Services: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/
UK Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/
Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus
Rethink Mental Illness: https://www.rethink.org/