BRITS could be released from Covid restrictions and enter into a mental health pandemic, an expert has warned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has consistently highlighted the “roadmap out of lockdown”, but the mental health of the nation has taken a back seat during the pandemic.
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The government has failed to address the dark side of lockdowns, Dr Raj Persaud fears.
Over the last year over a fifth of people in Britain have experienced some form of depression – more than double the pre-pandemic figure, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) states.
It was also previously reported that the pandemic is the “greatest threat to mental health” since the second world war and others have bravely spoken out about how the impact of the pandemic made them want to take their lives.
Every 90 minutes a life is lost to suicide in the UK, which is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign to remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there’s nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.
The pandemic has meant people have not only been isolated socially but also mentally.
Dr Persaud, author of The Mental Vaccine for Covid-19: Coping With Corona, said there have been a lot of flaws in how the government has handled lockdowns.
He said: “The Government doesn’t think psychologically. To my knowledge Sage doesn’t have any psychologists who deal with this, there is the occasional academic on the board but no one that deals with patients.
“The Government thinks we will release people into the wild and they will be fine – return happily to their previous state.
“We all know if you release animals into the wild who have been caged then they don’t do very well.
“Humans can adapt to amazing hardships as long as you give them time and certainty.”
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
Dr Raj said for most people mental health is a very private thing and many keep their struggles hidden.
“If the government addresses the issues then many people will come out of the woodworks as having these issues and there will be a mental health pandemic”, he added.
Rosie Weatherley, Information Content Manager at Mind, said we can’t underestimate the impact lockdowns have had on the mental health of the nation.
She also highlighted data from the ONS that revealed the number of adults self-reporting with depression had doubled since before the pandemic.
Conversely, GP-diagnosed cases of adult depression have decreased, suggesting the number of us asking our doctors for help appears to be falling.
Rosie said the data was “unsurprising”, and highlights Mind’s own research on the pandemic.
She said: “We surveyed 16,000 people during the initial lockdown and found that the pandemic has taken its toll on the nation’s wellbeing, with two in three young people (68 per cent) said their mental health got worse during the initial lockdown, compared to three in five (60 per cent) adults.
“We will be seeing the mental health consequences of the pandemic for a long time to come. That’s why the UK Government must focus on mental health as we recover from this dreadful year. “
If the last year has revealed anything, it’s that the pandemic has bought Brits anything but certainty.
Dr Raj compared people coming out of lockdown to coming out of a mental prison, and highlighted the plot line in Shawshank Redemption as an example of how people struggle to come to terms with change.
He said: “The main character is in prison for 50 years and then he is released and he has no preparation for it.
“He can’t cope with the world he has been released into, uncertainty and transition are some of the most stressful things to happen to a person.
“The Government simply doesn’t acknowledge the stress people have been under as it could lead to them questioning their policies.”
Throughout the pandemic the government has held Downing Street press briefings, updating people on infections and death rates.
Statistics on depression and abuse were never mentioned, and Dr Raj believes this is because the government doesn’t want to address the mental health crisis the country could now fall into.
“Coming out of full lockdown will be more stressful than going in – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t come out of lockdown.
“There is no key support. The government has been obsessed with Test and Trace and vaccines – which are both really important but they also need to invest in what people need from a mental health perspective.”
The 10 things you can do to feel happier now
If you’re struggling with your mental health, one expert says there are some simple steps you can take to improve your day-to-day life.
Dr Christopher Williams, author of a unique collection of mental health & lifestyle e-books that have been prescribed by the NHS revealed his top ten tips.
- Take the stairs for a healthy dose of mood boosting chemicals – exercise is good for you, so turn your back on lifts and escalators to improve your physical and mental health.
- Make bananas a part of your diet – they contain tryptophan, a protein that converts into serotonin, known to make you happy.
- Step back and appreciate what’s around you – go for a walk with friends and stop to take in your surrounding environment. The natural earth is a beautiful place!
- Don’t be afraid to write down and rate the things that are making you happy and sad. Use this to discover the things that make you happiest.
- Eating your five a day can improve mental wellbeing, but isn’t always the easiest. Smoothies are a great way to get your fix.
- Always have breakfast. Once you wake up, it’s crucial that you eat something to get your brain functioning properly.
- Get that heart racing – whether it be a morning jog or cleaning the car, up the pace. Challenging the cardiovascular and respiratory systems will skyrocket the production of happy chemicals.
- Create a playlist for when you need a boost. Suffering in silence can open the door to worrying thoughts.
- Takeaway the takeaway. A reliance on unhealthy foods in your diet can trigger depressive symptoms. Cut just one a week and plan a healthy meal.
- Do something for someone else. A small act of kindness every day will not only make a difference to the person you’re helping, but can also have a huge positive impact on you!
These mental health & lifestyle e-books have been created by Dr Christopher Williams, available exclusively on fitness & wellness community app, TRUCONNECT by TV.FIT
Another expert said that while the government has done a great job providing stimulus for economic growth and recovery – more needs to be done to supplement the mental health of people in the workplace.
James Routledge, founder of Sanctus told The Sun: “The government does a great job of providing stimulus for economic growth and recovery, we’ve seen the furlough scheme, business bounce back loans and the technology and startup sector benefit from brilliant tax incentives to stimulate growth.
“I’d like to see similar incentives that subsidise mental health support for employees, or the government providing grants or funding for employers to provide comprehensive mental health services to uncertain workers returning to the office.”
When it comes to the wellbeing of employees, River Hawkins, Founder of men’s mental health charity HUMEN said people will suffer if the right approach isn’t taken when people return to office environments.
He said: “Be honest with yourself and others about how you are feeling about going back to work, whether that’s with friends, family, colleagues or your manager.
“As you find your new routine, take your time, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have everything running smoothly straight away.”
Dr Raj added that the Downing Street press conferences haven’t been inspiring to Brits who may have been having a hard time throughout the pandemic.
“Winston Churchill was able to inspire people with his speeches – he didn’t disguise the issues but he would tell people they would be able to fight it.
“It made you want to go out and wage war, he really was a psychologist to the nation – that’s just something we haven’t seen during this pandemic”, he added.
So what can be done to prepare people for life out of lockdown?
Dr Raj says people need proper evaluation when it comes to mental health issues.
He suggested a triage system to assess how ill you are and said at the moment – all people are put on a waiting list for six months.
“They turn up and get turned away”, he said.
“There will be people who have anxiety, the worried well, people who are seriously ill and even people who don’t want to go to the doctors – they need access to things that they can implement at home.”
MENTAL HEALTH ROADMAP
In terms of a mental health roadmap, Dr Raj said there are steps that can be taken to help people on the road to recovery.
In the immediate term, he said students being trained as psychiatrists could be roped into help with an uptick in demand.
When it comes to what can be done in the long term, Dr Raj said data should be presented on the mental health impact the pandemic has created.
He said: “Each night we need to be seeing stats on the mental impact, just as we have with infection and hospital data.
“In the next 12 months there needs to be more resources allocated.
“There needs to be extra funding for therapists and funding for mental health across the board.”
Spotting that you have an actual mental health issue can be hard for some, but Dr Raj said the basic principle is no longer enjoying things you used to.
KNOW THE SIGNS
He said: “People need to be educated in normal ups and downs, just because you’re having a bad day it doesn’t mean you have a mental health issue.
“For example, if you enjoy watching football, one sign could be if your team is playing and you’re no longer bothered about watching the game.
“Another sign is sleep disturbance, if you haven’t been able to sleep for three, four days in a row then it’s a sign something is going on.
“If you’ve gone off food and you generally don’t feel hungry then that’s another warning sign”, he said.
Dr Raj said there are day to day things people can do to help their situation.
There are all sorts of forms of relief, but Dr Raj says you have to be active in them if you really want to change your mindset.
“Successful people will spend around ten per cent of their time dwelling and 90 per cent sorting out the situation.
“There are only two solutions if you’re under stress. One is to solve the problem, if you have a bullying boss then you could learn assertive skills, look for a new job or complain to HR – act and change it.
“The second solution is called emotionally focused coping – this means adjusting your emotions so you become less distressed by the situation.
“Distract, engage and absorb – there’s no third option.
“People think they can’t discuss mental health because it’s too complicated, but simply put we need to be able to confront our issues to be able to deal with them”.
Last month the NHS revealed it would be giving more than a million children access to mental health support at school.
Mental Health Minister, Nadine Dorries said she recognised how difficult the pandemic has been for people and the toll it has taken on the mental health of individuals from all walks of life.
She said: “We kept mental health services open throughout the pandemic, with services adapting to deliver support digitally, and the NHS urged people who needed help to come forward.”
As lockdown continues to ease she said we must tread this path carefully.
“We know Covid-19 has created long-term mental health challenges that we must meet head on, providing care for those who are most vulnerable.
“That is why earlier this year we set out a plan for how we help people’s mental health recover after the pandemic in our Mental Health Recovery Action.”
The government has pledged to invest £2.3 billion per year into mental health services by 2023/24.