The disruption caused by lockdown and lack of social contacts can affect people’s mental health. There is increasing concern that people with pre-existing mental health problems for whom routine and regular human interaction is important in managing their condition may find lockdown particularly difficult. Some respondents with contacts in mental health services noted that there is already an increased demand for their services and there was an increase in cases relating to self-harm and suicide attempts.
There were strong concerns that both the pandemic and social isolation measures have exacerbated anxiety and depression levels. There were also fears that they could be powerful triggers for relapse for those who have in the past have struggled with OCD and those with a history of using alcohol or other substances as coping mechanisms:
“I can see a decline in mental and physical health. These are anxious times for all of us. I can’t imagine what is must be like for those with mental health issues. My friend is a counsellor and she told that the organisations had seen an increase in people wanting help after Covid 19.”
“In relation to mental health problems – for people with OCD – especially concerns about germs, this virus is potentially a powerful trigger for relapse. For people with alcohol problems, there is an increased risk of problem drinking due to drinking being a familiar coping strategy – also regular support through services, AA etc. is not so readily available.”
These effects are likely exacerbated due to the reduced access to mental services. Due to the new social isolation measures some mental health services have had to move online, while others have had to stop entirely.
Several survey respondents acknowledged the limitations of using online mental health services:
“People with disabilities and mental health problems are struggling. I have existing mental health problems anxiety and depression. I am finding it very difficult in lockdown some days. My anxiety levels increase and also my depression and mood are bad. There is no person to person counselling available due to governments cuts and they still have very long waiting lists in my area, when we come out of lockdown… I realise there are online services available but theses do not help my condition.”
“There are many people in our community who already had poor mental health. A lot has been done to address practical needs such as food parcels but there is limit as to how much support for people’s mental health can be made without physical contact.”
These findings come from the report ‘Gleanings: Listening and learning to poverty under lockdown’, produced by Church Action on Poverty and JPIT.