This past year has been difficult for all of us. With all the hardships that we have faced and are still facing, it is even more important than ever to address the issue of mental health.
The pandemic and all of the social restrictions that have been implemented to control it have had a devastating impact on the mental health of our country.
It is important that we remain safe and sensible and continue to adhere to current government guidelines, but we also need to pay attention to our psychological health and make sure that we stay safe on that score too.
The mental health organisation Mind ran a report in the summer of 2020, with a sample size of 16,338. Its aim was to establish the relationship between COVID and mental health.
More than half (60%) of the adults aged 24 or over surveyed in this report claimed that their mental health has deteriorated over the course of lockdown, and over two thirds (68%) of respondents aged between 13 and 24 claimed the same.
The report found that people with pre-existing histories of mental illness and poor mental health were particularly affected, with 75% of adults and 88% of young people with prior experience of mental health problems reporting worsening mental states.
It has impacted upon those with no prior experience however, with around one in five (22%) respondents with no previous mental health issues reporting poor or very poor mental health during lockdown. These are worrying, though not overly surprising, statistics.
Mental Health and Lockdown
There are a number of reasons why our mental health is suffering at the moment. One of the biggest reasons is isolation and loneliness. To stop the spread of the coronavirus it has been vitally important for us to keep our distance from others, including those closest to us.
This has meant that families and friends have been unable to meet up and spend time together, and we have been unable to meet new people. According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost a quarter (24%) of UK adults have felt lonely because of coronavirus.
The number of young people (aged 18-24) who have felt lonely is almost double, at 44%. While loneliness does not do much damage over short spans of time, we have lived in a world of social isolation for over a year now. Long-term feelings of loneliness can be much more damaging for a person’s mental health.
Another major problem is that of financial insecurity. According to the Office for National Statistics, in the three month period between December 2020 and February 2021, 7.3 per 1000 UK employees were made redundant.
A total of 56,000 fewer people were in payrolled employment in March 2021 as compared to February 2021. The stress of sudden unemployment, and the fear of it, has taken its toll on many people.
Managing Mental Health at home during lockdown
Thankfully, we are currently at a point where restrictions on social gatherings are beginning to ease again. However, things could always take another turn for the worse and we all need to accept and be prepared for the eventuality that it may be a long time yet before things are back to normal.
With that being the case, the best way to combat loneliness and the negative feelings associated with it is to stay in touch with those dearest to us online. It can be difficult to approach online relationships with the same enthusiasm as you would seeing a dear one face to face, but for the moment it remains the best and safest way to maintain a healthy social life.
Try to arrange face-to-face calls with your family and friends as often as you can, set up fun events like pub quizzes or online games. It isn’t the same, but if you haven’t been trying this you might be surprised at how much better it can make you feel.
If you have lost your job as a result of COVID, or if it looks likely that you will soon, you should make sure that you understand your benefit rights.
Worries about money and financial stability have a huge impact on mental health and relationships, so you need to make sure that you are as financially secure as you can possibly be.
If you do not know what sort of benefits you may be entitled to, you should check the government’s work and financial support page and see what sort of help is available to you.
Exercising to help Mental hHalth
It is also important that we look after our bodies while we are stuck at home. On the NHS’s help page, it is emphasised that there is a very strong link between our physical health and our mental wellbeing.
In times like these it is especially easy to fall into bad habits in terms of diet and exercise, and many of us will have been guilty both of overindulging and remaining inactive. While this might seem comforting at first, in the long-term it only makes us feel worse.
Try to eat as healthily as you can, and exercise a little every day- even if it’s only for 15 minutes- and you should see an improvement in your general mood.
Reaching out for help
Of course the little things we do are just that- little things. If you are feeling completely overwhelmed it is important that you reach out for help. Mental health charities and helplines like the Samaritans are still running, and now more than ever it is important that people make use of their invaluable services.
It might be impossible right now to do face to face counselling, but you are never alone and there will always be support available.
If you feel like you can’t get through it alone, or if you are worried that you are on the edge of a crisis, contact a helpline as soon as you possibly can.
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