Regardless of existing issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant deterioration in mental wellbeing across the country, as shown by several studies.
One study shows that 56% of respondents report pandemic-related stress which led to at least one negative mental health effect. This was 64% higher among frontline health workers. It is also important to recognize that within this mental health crisis, there is a wide range of issues that have arisen in response to different phases of the pandemic, meaning people could be experiencing opposing issues at the same time.
At the core of it, the pandemic has led to increased anxiety over health, both for ourselves and other, more vulnerable people around us. Firstly, some who have been hospitalised for COVID-19 have exhibited post-ICU syndrome, a condition similar to PTSD, due to their treatment. This means a patient’s mental health could be impacted long-term even after infection. Beyond worrying about catching COVID-19, more people are also becoming worried about general infection and pathogens in the environment. Manifesting into a form of germophobia, it leads to constant anxiety and restlessness when, or if, they begin to leave their home. This can also escalate to when at home or meeting other people. When this is allowed to dictate someone’s life it becomes a concern, and this is something being seen more and more in recent days.
Separate from medical reasons, the government-enforced lockdown has also contributed to several different mental health issues. A survey showed that loneliness, not being able to go outside and not being able to see family have been the most common contributors to poorer mental health during the pandemic. The imposed isolation gives little room to distract from difficult times and the resulting boredom is contributing to mental health problems. Another factor is that due to the lockdown, many people have lost their jobs or missed out on important life events. Roughly 650,000 lost their jobs during the lockdown and this is predicted to escalate to millions in the fallout. From this alone, it is clear to see how the population’s mental health has worsened. Now that we’re leaving lockdown,we are beginning to see issues of going back to normal. It is thought to take three weeks to form a habit and now that we have to break this habit, it is bound to cause stress. For some, the thought of going back to norma’ is a daunting task that will take months to work towards.
Whilst we may slowly be coming out of lockdown, there is still a question mark over the next few months and this uncertainty is, ironically, one of few consistencies throughout the pandemic. Change is a common source of anxiety and because of the unsettling nature of the pandemic, it is clear how people could struggle with this. We can hope for a vaccine or drug to reduce the physical effects but the resultant mental side effects will certainly be long-term and hard to treat. In the next few months, the importance of treating the mental effects will hopefully be recognised more but currently, 25% of people who tried to access NHS mental health services were unable to do so. It is obvious this is a problem that still needs solving.
For further information or support, the charity MIND has a range of pages related to COVID-19 and the various mental health issues that may have come from the pandemic.