We’re celebrating World Mental Health Day once more. And the theme this year is Mental Health for All. Greater Investment. Greater Access. And once again I’m wondering what has changed. As in previous years, are mental health awareness days and weeks just another opportunity for lip service?For organisations and governments to jump on the transitory band wagon and say the right thing? Make promises which turn out to be empty? Put out a tweet or a post which are tokenistic at best? My hope for change, for the parity of esteem once promised, wanes.
Perhaps one might argue that with the advent of Covid-19, the focus of health has shifted further into the realms of the physical. And rightly so. With no exact timeline for a vaccine and continued need for social distancing measures. Alongside a struggling economy and NHS. It is forgivable, yet naïve, to think that mental health must needs fall further down the health agenda. But this position ignores what we know to be true. That the mental health agenda can’t afford to fall any further. Mental health is not just a nice idea or a luxury. It needs to be a priority. Not just for those with a diagnosis but those who care for them. And, ourselves as well.
Whilst 1 in 4 people in the UK will have a diagnosable mental health problem in any one year. 4 in 4 of us have mental health. Mental health which relies on stability; both political, medical and economic. At times of our lives we will all struggle with our mental health. As we’ve seen with Covid-19, many people don’t seem to care when they think it won’t affect them. But if there’s one thing we know to be true, any of us could develop a mental health illness. So, mental health isn’t an us and them things. It’s an all of us thing.
For more thoughts on awareness days read here
Impact of Covid-19
Not only is mental health something we all need to be aware of. But we need to be taking action now; on this World Mental Health Day. Whilst we may believe the focus needs to be on physical health right now. That would deny a massive piece of the health puzzle. You only need to look at headlines to see that the impact of Covid-19 on people’s mental health is proving to be huge.
In June 2020, a study found that the impact of lockdown meant 1/3 of UK women were struggling with loneliness. Not a diagnosis in and of itself but loneliness has shown to negatively impact both one’s physical and mental health. Another study into anxiety found that anxiety levels in the UK population peaked in March 2020 with the onset of lockdown and Covid-19. They began to fall only to rise again from July as lockdown restrictions eased and the true impact of the pandemic began to be felt.
A study from the Office of National Statistics showed that by July 2020, 69% of surveyed adults were worried about the effects of Covid-19. And yet another study showed that ¼ of Britons in a relationship reported that Covid-19 had placed their relationship under pressure. Relationships, which are referred to as the ‘missing piece of the wellbeing puzzle’ by the Mental Health Foundation, are integral to our overall wellbeing as well as possibly a key support network if we become unwell.
The evidence continues with a poll from the charity Mind which surveyed 15,548 adults and 790 young people in England and Wales. Results found that 3 in 5 (59%) adults reported worsening mental health and 22% of those aged over 13 without a history of mental illness described their mental health during lockdown as “poor” or “very” poor. Lastly, a study into depression in British adults found that it had doubled during the pandemic.
And yet, this isn’t the full story. We won’t know the long-term consequences of Covid-19 on mental illness or mental health for a very long time. But the short term impacts on the economy, unemployment, homelessness and a reduced mental health service are already raising red flags. Our mental health is a balance of risk factors, elements which make us more vulnerable, and protective factors; elements which re-balance and help us cope. Risk factors which include the list above and multiple other social, economic, political and individual areas. Many of which have suffered or became heightened during Covid-19.
For some mental health benefits of Covid-19 read here
The Message on World Mental Health Day
In some ways, the message of World Mental Health Day of mental health for all couldn’t come at a better time. It’s been an important message since time began but with many people’s mental health teetering on the edge due to Covid-19; perhaps this year will be the year it’s heard and felt. We all need to be mindful of our mental health and think carefully, and perhaps even critically, about our responsibility in looking after ourselves and others. More than ever we can’t afford for World Mental Health Day to pass with empty promises and tweets that fall on deaf ears. We need change desperately. The human cost of our voices remaining unheard yet again is too high.
And the message this year couldn’t be more clear. We need to look after our mental health. It’s not something that happens to others or that we can brush under the carpet. 4 in 4 of us have mental health. But for the 1 in 4 of us with a diagnosable condition, we need greater investment and greater access to services. Both of which have suffered even further during Covid-19. With services being suspended, limited or closed when they are needed most. As social distancing measures and lockdown procedures deprive many of us of key coping mechanisms. This year, of all years, mental health matters more than ever.
What are your thoughts about the impact of Covid-19 on mental health? Do you agree that mental health needs to be higher on the agenda more than ever? Let us know below!