2020 has been a tumultuous year in the world of healthcare. To protect one another from the spread of a deadly virus, we’ve been maintaining a prudent distance between one another. Pubs have restricted their opening hours, and workers have tried wherever possible to do their work from home.
Of course, restrictions of this kind are not without their drawbacks. While many of us have realised that shorter commutes, greater flexibility, and a more comfortable work environment are all worthwhile benefits, a significant number of Brits have faced struggles with their mental health.
As such, World Mental Health Day 2020 is more important than ever. It raises awareness of conditions and symptoms that many of us might recognise, and of the fact that help is available to those who want to look for it.
A report by the Health Foundation back in June pointed to several distinct drivers of mental health trouble. It pointed to ONS statistics which suggest that more than two thirds of adults are worried about the effect of COVID-19 o their lives. Certain groups, like those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, have been impacted more by the pandemic – and these are precisely the groups that are most vulnerable to suffering from mental health problems in the first place.
What are the Solutions?
‘Mental Health’ is a very broad category, and thus the solutions are many and varied. Monitoring the mental well-being of remote workers, and putting in place intervention mechanisms for those struggling, can be vital. Workers should feel that they can safely communicate and express themselves. A work-life balance should be encouraged, as should a routine in which workers get plenty of sleep. In a recent discussion, the CEO and COO of RSM International pointed at the importance of creating a psychologically safe work environment for all – demonstrating that this is a problem that business has begun to take seriously.
People who’ve been living alone or shielding have faced the challenge of loneliness. But there are other effects which stem from being housebound – calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline experienced a sharp rise over the first few weeks of lockdown.
When the financial future looks uncertain, we get stressed. A third of people in employment were worried about losing their job, according to a report by the Mental Health Foundation. What’s more, volunteer numbers have plummeted.
The availability and affordability of quality housing is a strong predictor of mental health. People with no access to outdoor spaces are at particular risk, as are those living in properties with inescapably noisy neighbours.
While social isolation’s role in driving mental health problems is difficult to exaggerate, frontline workers face stress of a different kind. Having direct experience of the sharp end of a pandemic can promote depression, substance abuse, and PTSD.
Limited Access to Mental Health Services
As a response to the pandemic, health services across the UK have prioritised treatment of COVID-19 patients, at the expense of those in need of other kinds of treatment. Moreover, many of those who might otherwise have sought mental health support has been given reason to hesitate.