It is the easiest statement to say that ‘this has been a tough year’ but it has been a lot more than that for a substantial number of people, it still is. The economy is shrinking, rules are commanded on a stop/start basis and relationships are continually feeling strained.
Mental health as a whole has been stigmatised and subjected to questioning for decades, however when the question arises of fact or fiction… we can’t argue with statistics.
According to the mental health charity Mind:
- One in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.
- One in five have suicidal thoughts with an alarming one in fifteen attempt suicide.
- Approximately only one in eight people with a mental health problem are currently getting any type of treatment.
These are terrifying statistics and evidence of the severe population of people that are facing such problems. It is also worth noting that the statistics were based pre-pandemic, it is not yet known to the full extent to which the pandemic has changed the numbers.
Mental health doesn’t have a favoured victim and it affects people regardless of race, age, social status etc. A study that was conducted last year by the NHS concluded that ‘The proportion of children experiencing a probable mental disorder has increased over the past three years, from one in nine in 2017 to one in six in July this year.’
With the pandemic taking no prisoners worldwide, it was only natural that we would face fear, confusion and a huge knock-on effect of mental health. Overall, 36.7% of children aged 5 to 16 years had a parent who thought their child was worried that friends and family would catch COVID-19. More than half (50.2%) of children with a probable mental disorder had their parent report this, compared with a third (33.2%) of children unlikely to have a mental disorder.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was something new, something that we had never faced before and being told to stay indoors felt somewhat alien to the majority of us. For children, who are still learning about their personalities, actions and the way that the world works… it has been devastating. Of course, we are now nearly a year down the line but this doesn’t detract from the confusion and fear. The numbers are extreme and the information that the general public receive can often lack depth.
Data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) was compiled into many studies, they suggested that, among adults:
- Average mental distress (measured using GHQ-12) was 8.1% higher in April 2020 than it was between 2017 and 2019
- The proportion of adults who reported a level of psychological distress above a set threshold increased from 24.3% between 2017 and 2019 to 37.8% in April 2020.
Another worrying survey that was conducted, referred to a different bout of statistics regarding the pandemic’s effect on the UK. This survey observed the physical effects of mental health due to Covid-19. Overall, 4121 participants (9%) surveyed reported experiencing psychological or physical abuse, 7984 participants (18%) reported experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm in the first month of lockdown and 2174 participants (5%) reported harming themselves at least once since the start of the UK’s lockdown.
Everyone has their own opinions on how the pandemic should have been handled, what they would have implemented and precautions that would have been taken. It needs to be remembered however that this was new for everyone – scientists, care-workers, the government… all of us. It’s easy to make a judgement on a situation when you only have a handful of the information but I am sure that it wouldn’t be so easy when different papers, factors and opinions surface.
I believe that the most important thing that we can do throughout this pandemic is to adhere to the guidelines, take care of ourselves and take care of our loved ones. These times are hard, isolating away from loved ones is truly devastating but there will be a day soon enough where we can reunite. In years to come, we will look back on this time, whilst were sat around a table with our loved ones.
We will get there, with perseverance, care and patience. Hold on, it will get better.