Here at This is Me we don’t just focus on physical disabilities and illnesses we also work with people who have mental health struggles. These can range from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and social anxiety just to name a few. And with this ‘Lockdown 2.0’ (as the kids are calling it), mental health in general is taking a bigger hit even for those who don’t have a diagnosed condition, never mind those who do.
Over the past several months over half of adults and over two thirds of young people have said that the first lockdown in April caused their mental health to suffer. People who reported having no issues before the lockdown found their mental health and wellbeing declined significantly (as reported by Mind). The Samaritans reported that over a quarter of all calls related to concerns about Covid19 and consequently there was an increase in people calling to talk about suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
These statistics are worrying and even frightening a little, as going into the winter the situation isn’t likely to change any time soon. The first lockdown was during the Spring when people could spend time in the garden, go outside and get exercise soaking up the Vitamin D. It was a completely new situation and many people threw themselves into the spirit of it, volunteering to help neighbours and family wherever they could. There were concerns over finances and isolation struggles of course, but it was temporary (we thought), it’ll all come right in the end.
This time round, it’s completely different. The clocks have gone back so it’s dark now much earlier. It’s cold and wet which means most of us are confined to our houses or flats. Financial worries have only got bigger and there’s no longer that general air of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Our front-line workers - medical staff, police, firefighters, delivery workers, supermarket staff are at risk of being overwhelmed because they remember what it was like the first time and know what’s to come. Frustrations are setting in, shoulders are drooping. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Studies are showing that these effects are being found more so in people from lower socio-economic areas. While people from higher socio-economic backgrounds are also affected (mental illness doesn’t discriminate), it is disproportionately those who have lower household income or decreased access to mental health services that are finding it more difficult to cope, especially the second time round. Studies also show that it’s people who live in more urban environments (those who are more used to being around people or prefer to be so) are suffering more than those in rural areas.
The fact is, we’re not meant to be isolated creatures. We need human contact. You’ll always have people who prefer solitude but in general, social and physical interaction is what keeps us going and can keep us healthy. Physical contact like hugging has been reported to help lower your blood pressure and raise dopamine and serotonin levels (the happy hormones) and can just reassure us that we are loved. It’s a necessity.
With social distancing, not being able to hug people or come within six feet of friends and loved ones has been detrimental for many to say the least. However, to stop the spread of Covid19, it’s essential.
So what do you do when human contact is necessary to our mental health but social distancing is essential to halt the progression of a deadly virus? How do we balance those out without permanently damaging our mental health? That is indeed the question and unfortunately there’s no easy answer. The best we can do is to keep making an effort to stay in contact with friends and family. If you have a social bubble, make full use of it. Look out for people who you know might struggle. And remember, this will end. Stay strong.
If you’ve been affected through the lockdown this year then please do speak out. Talk to a friend, a neighbour, anyone. You can also contact mental health charities through the information below:
https://www.samaritans.org/ or call them on 116 123