The pandemic has prevented thousands of people from accessing mental health services.
The UK government introduced lockdown measures for the first time on the 23rd March 2020. The government advised that people remain inside, and only come out for essential shopping and one form of exercise, which meant that families must stay inside, until the UK government says otherwise. Whilst this would ensure that all are protected and safe from the virus, there are also several dire consequences of being under lockdown. One of these consequences is the insufficient access to mental health services. With a third lockdown and similar measures announced in January 2021, many are finding it increasingly difficult to bear the mental strain, particularly with the winter already being a difficult period for mental health each year.
Megan Pennell, the parliamentary and campaigns manager at Mind, has stated that “there has been a deterioration in people’s mental health, regardless of whether they had the mental health problem before [lockdown]”. According to a survey conducted by MIND on the first lockdown, it was found that 65% of adult participants with a pre-existing mental health problem said it had become worse. 75% of people aged 13-24 with pre-existing mental health problems said that their mental health had also become worse. Furthermore, 22% of participants above the age of 13 without prior experience of mental health problems said that their mental health during lockdown was poor or very poor. The results also show that women have suffered a greater toll on their mental health. Other factors such as not being able to see family, loneliness, not being able to go outside, concerns about the virus itself, and boredom.
The charity YoungMinds also conducted a survey, with a sample size of 1,850 parents and carers around the UK, 750 of whom have a child who had received support and treatment for mental health issues in the previous three months. The findings of this survey had shown that 25% of these 750 parents have reported that 25% said their child was no longer able to access help from the NHS, private providers, helplines, school counsellors or charities even though they still needed it.
As shown by these findings, there has been a lack of contact with mental health services, despite the worsening spiral of mental health. Research has found that this is due to a reluctance to contact these services during the crisis and the lack of availability. Pennell said that only 25% of all respondents who tried to access NHS mental health services had been unable to get support. Furthermore, the pandemic has highlighted and magnified inequalities, according to Matthew Hotopf, a professor of general hospital psychiatry at King’s College London. For instance, according to the BAME communities in Camden, it was reported that due to language and cultural barriers, as well as the focus on reputation, many have been unable to access statutory authorities. Research on the intersection of gender and ethnicity found that, whilst there were no noticeable differences between ethnicities among women, BAME men suffered significantly worse mental health than White men.
As Pennell has stated, not only is this a physical health crisis, it is also ‘a mental health emergency’. With experts suggesting the pandemic presents “the greatest threat to mental health since the second world war”, we may be seeing the true consequences of inadequate mental health services and poor mental health for years to come.
At JAN Trust, we understand the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Hence during these challenging times, JAN Trust continues to work hard to support our beneficiaries. If you or someone you know are experiencing mental health issues, we have provided several helplines you can access:
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday) or text 86463
Mind provides confidential mental health information services.
Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line
Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday)
Telephone: 0300 304 7000 (4:30pm-10:30pm)
Telephone: 0808 808 4994 (11am-11pm, free to call)
Email: Helpline email form
Crisis Support: Text ‘THEMIX’ to 85258.
Telephone: 0800 1111
Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.