Mental health has always been a stigmatized issue, despite being one of the most common challenges people face. In the UK, one in four people experience mental health problems of some kind each year, with anxiety and depression affecting the highest number of people.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, mental health issues have been drastically rising. According to mental health surveys in the UK, over half of adults and two-thirds of young people have reported a worsening of their mental health during lockdown.
During this extended period of global crisis, where a devastating loss of life, social isolation and loneliness, job losses and rising poverty have spurred mass grief and fear, it is perhaps no surprise that people have been struggling with their mental health.
On a personal level, the pandemic has had detrimental consequences for my mental health. After a year of unemployment and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in isolation, my panic attacks became so overwhelming that I fled to A&E. With the help of the Crisis team, various doctors and friends and family, I am steadily making my way to recovery.
Like many other people whose mental health has been adversely affected by the pandemic, the end of lockdown this June is a welcome sigh of relief. The freedom to meet up with friends and family in person and visit various places and events that add joy and novelty to our lives is invaluable to nourishing mental and emotional wellbeing.
But with the economic impacts of the pandemic continuing to worsen, the pressure on many people’s ability to manage stress levels and maintain good mental health will very likely increase.
Good mental health is dependent on a variety of lifestyle factors, and is aided by stable shelter, secure finances and physical safety, strong social support systems, and activities that allow us to have fun, express ourselves, connect with others and increase our sense of wellbeing.
For so many people like me who have faced serious adversities in our lives, even more effort is required to heal past traumas and develop a happy, healthy and fulfilling future. Without the range of support, resources and information I had to ride through colossal waves of shock and terror, I would not have the sense of strength and stability I am so grateful to be blessed with now.
With many of us recovering from the loss of loved ones and threats to our health, as well as dire forecasts of soaring poverty, debt and unemployment after lockdown, scientists are predicting an impending period of mass “post-pandemic stress disorder”.
It is therefore more vital than ever to ensure people have access to services and resources that support their mental health, particularly those who are unable to afford a stable and secure lifestyle.