We Haven’t Seen the True Impact of COVID-19
For those with mental health issues, the Coronavirus crisis is going to cost lives
When I think about my mental health, I’ve always seen it as a straight line, from unwell to better.
I was 17 when the first round of discussions about anti-depressants started, and 18 when I started taking medication to manage my symptoms. By 20, I had a therapist, and the first time I decided to stop my medication was 22 (spoiler alert – it wasn’t a great time). But, by the time I was 25, I reached the stage where I accepted that my anxiety and depression were as much a part of me as my frizzy hair.
And, the past three years’ have been just fine, with the occasional fluctuation, as mental health tends to bring. But over the past two months, there’s been a shift.
This, in itself, isn’t surprising. We wake up to isolation and the worst possible news available, and follow it up by squabbling with our partners about issues that (up until) a few weeks ago didn’t exist. Jobs have been lost, the economy is a mess and almost everyone is frantically baking banana bread. And, amid all of this. I sit at my desk attempting to create some semblance of structure to my day, in the hope that it’ll trick my mind into work mode. Because right now, my brain seems to resemble some of the more questionable culinary creations of the UK’s budding bread-makers.
I pace around the house like a dressing-gown clad Lady Macbeth, acknowledging that no amount of hand-washing will cleanse me of the guilt I feel that I’m not doing enough. That I’m sat around at home feeling tears spring to my eyes, while the NHS staff start their 12-hour shift.
And, I’m not the only one.
A quick poll of Instagram shows that beneath the veneer of cheery lockdown content, almost all of feel alone, the precious safety nets of friendship and family ripped from underneath us. Friends in therapy no longer have access to someone that can listen, chemists are desperately trying to prioritise medications, and even food shopping has become a gargantuan task.
For those with eating disorders, I imagine it’s a sort of personal hell being trapped in their kitchen. Forced to start considering (again) whether they should stop eating today. And if you suffer from health anxiety, all of this is probably more overwhelming than ever.
In fact, this article was prompted by a teary phone call from one of my closest friends. An ex-colleague of hers took her own life on Sunday morning. And, in an ironic twist, as she was explaining her guilt in not reaching out sooner, her connection dropped.
The unspoken hopelessness of so many of us is something we’re all so keen to shy away from. We’re all desperate for cheery upsides, anything to mask the brutal reality that we’re currently living in. But, ignoring the impact that COVID19 will have on the mental health of so many is, at this point, dangerous.
But, as with everything, it’s a postcode lottery as to much support you can access. While Greater Manchester plans to launch mobile counselling services, other areas have so far, done nothing. The Guardian highlighted research from Lancet Psychiatry, which suggested that an increase in suicides is not inevitable, providing preventive action is taken imminently.
“Suicide is likely to become a more pressing concern as the pandemic spreads and has longer-term effects on the general population, the economy and vulnerable groups,” it said. “Preventing suicide, therefore, needs urgent consideration. The response must capitalise on, but extend beyond, general mental health policies and practices.”
Now, more than ever, investment in the UK’s fragile mental health problem is required.
Suffering from a huge decline in mental health can feel incredibly isolating, whether in isolation or not. The very nature of depression and anxiety as an illness is lonely. And, I think that’s the irony in all of this. The sadness and grief I feel, is quite simply, shared by all of us.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues highlighted in this article, please contact:
Provides support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Offers volunteer support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s access charge