July 13th, 2020
The role mental health services have to play in post Covid-19 UK
- Grief and Bereavement
- Social Anxiety
- Health Anxiety
It has been reported in the news in recent weeks that the UK, and much of the rest of the world, is to expect the number of people struggling with their mental health to increase substantially in the post Covid-19 period. It is important that we build on the positives that have been borne out of lockdown and prepare for what’s to come.
Firstly, the most obvious reason for the difficulties that are predicted is that Covid-19 has caused a huge disruption to the lives of most of us. Whilst some have been able to benefit from the increased time at home and slower tempo of daily life, others are finding their mental health being tested in ways that it was not before.
Levels of anxiety have increased substantially over the past few months, presenting in people in different ways. For some, they are experiencing it directly. Whether going into supermarkets and being uncomfortable about how social distancing is being observed or reading grim predictions on news sites, they have been feeling more anxious in themselves.
For others, the situation has not made them feel particularly anxious, but they are very much concerned about the mental wellbeing of a loved one. Their partner, child or parent may be struggling to deal with aspects of this virus and that is in turn having an impact on their life. Finally, it may be the more social and/or economic aspects that are causing heightened anxiety, such as an unstable job market or differing ways of working and travelling.
However, this is by no means solely an issue of anxiety. Cases of loneliness have reportedly doubled during lockdown, whilst others - unaccustomed to spending so much time in the same space with their partner - are finding themselves having unexpected relationship difficulties. Over 44,000 families, of course, will sadly be dealing with grief.
What will make this even more challenging, is that whilst mental health difficulties have risen, our ability to treat mental illness has been hindered over the past few months. Many of those that would usually go and see their GP to discuss their initial struggles with their mental health have not, either due to fears of catching the coronavirus or through not wanting to place a strain on vital NHS services.
As one doctor put it, “where we could’ve probably nipped some of these lower-level anxiety and depression stuff earlier, we’re seeing people go into crisis”. As such, it’s not just a rise in mental health difficulties at all stages - those needing crisis support are likely to be the largest in number.
Whilst the near future undoubtedly holds some significant challenges, this is not to say that there have been no positives. Great strides have been made in recent years to destigmatise mental health and the coronavirus has only further cemented the idea that it is ok to ask for help when you are struggling.
What’s more, we have collectively got better at checking in with others. “How are you?” seems to now carry a more sincere meaning as opposed to just being a greeting phrase. The shared experience has given us a greater inclination to check in with others and do what we can to support them. This will hopefully continue when a more typical way of life finally returns.
What can be done?
We cannot possibly know who exactly is going to be affected by this period and how their mental health will have changed. What we can do, is accept that the demand for mental health support is going to increase substantially, and lay down certain provisions to handle this as best we can.
Knowledge is power: It is the duty of all of us working in mental health to make sure there are enough relevant resources to give people guidance during this difficult time. Many will be experiencing mental health challenges for the first time and will need varied content to help make sense of what they’re going through.
Maintain social systems: We must not forget about the positives that have come from this situation. We should encourage each other to continue to check in, learn about one another’s situations and have meaningful conversations about how we are doing. This should not just apply to our friends and family, but our colleagues as well. Workplaces should make it clear to their employees that they can talk to their managers/HR staff about their mental health - they should be reassured that they will be listened to.
Increase and improve access to care: Clear signposting is needed to direct those needing support to the most appropriate form of care. There will be many people presenting with different conditions, all at different stages, once lockdown is finally fully lifted. These people need to be shown what options they have and what would be most appropriate for them.
At HelloSelf, we are easing the burden on the NHS by providing expert clinical care in an accessible, flexible and affordable way. We match our members to a therapist suited to their needs and allow them to have sessions at a time and place which suits them.
We will continue to provide workplaces with regular access to a clinical professional, allowing them to develop early intervention processes and truly support their employees when they need it most.
We are also committed to producing useful, engaging resources to help everyone get the most of their mental health. We will keep asking our members and followers what information would be useful for them and do our best to provide it.
Most of all, we know that to tackle the mental health difficulties that the world is about to face will take far more than just HelloSelf. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all of those working to provide effective, quality care to those needing some help in becoming their best selves.
If you’d like to know more about HelloSelf to see if we might be the right option for you, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.