The start of a new year for a lot of people heralded a change from what 2020 had to offer, however, the problems of 2020 are far from behind us sadly.
With this in mind, and especially due to the UK returning to a state of national lockdown for the foreseeable future, it is important to look back at certain things of 2020 in order to inform how we move forwards into the uncertain future as both individuals and as a society.
And, in this piece, we will be looking specifically at how mental health was impacted during 2020 across the UK, as well as what we should be aware of to move forward in the healthiest possible way.
On the whole, the UK’s mental health in 2020 was far from positive. While there was a lot of good advocating done on behalf of charities and public institutions in terms of raising mental health awareness, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and general worry were remarkably prevalent in the general population — with the Office for National Statistics finding that “The most common issue affecting well-being continues to be feeling worried about the future (63%), followed by feeling stressed or anxious (56%), and feeling bored (49%).”
Studies Show That Few Demographics Were Safe From Negative Mental Health
In Public Health England’s analysis into the mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic, it was discovered that young adults and women were more likely to report worse mental health and general wellbeing than men and older adults.
Furthermore, adults who have pre-existing mental health conditions showed increased levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness over adults who did not suffer from pre-existing mental health conditions.
Another statistic showed that adults who had not been in employment before the lockdown initially began in the UK were more likely to report worse experiences of loneliness, more violent bouts of anxiety, and more severe states of mental distress.
In the analysis, they also looked at some other factors, which showed an increasingly negative mental wellbeing in people who were of a “low household income or socioeconomic position,” “with long term physical health problems,” “living in urban areas,” or “living with children.”
And, sadly, none of this unexpected. Financial instability and job losses rife across the country, housing insecurity, not being able to see loved ones, not being able to take advantage of a garden during lockdown, having to adapt to homeschooling, and so much more, have all brought an unexpected and immense amount of pressure down upon the shoulders of individuals across the UK.
People’s Normal Coping Mechanisms Have Been Reduced In The Wake Of The Covid-19 Pandemic
As the world around us started to suddenly throw this new myriad of stressors into our daily lives, a lot of people had their usual mechanisms of coping with stress taken away from them as the lockdown came into effect.
A lot of people took advantage of Zoom and Skype as ways to contact friends and loved ones, which has helped countless people across the UK to stay positive throughout this time.
However, for a lot of people who usually enjoy groups sports, chatting with friends at the pub, going to the gym, or other outdoor social activities as ways to de-stress, the sense of social isolation caused by lockdown was still too overwhelming.
In an attempt to cope with the stresses of the world in this period of social isolation, a lot of people have also been turning to alcohol in order to help ease the stress.
Drink Aware published the worrying findings of their 2020 statistics writing, “more than a quarter of adult drinkers (26%) drank more alcohol during early lockdown. And […] one in 10 drinkers – the equivalent of 4.6 million – drank more than their normal throughout the overall lockdown period, even as restrictions eased.”
The development of negative coping mechanisms such as these is a worrying precedent and something which can only damage the mental wellbeing of individuals even more, as alcohol addiction can lead to increase depression and anxiety.
Mental Health Service Professionals Have Been Increasingly Concerned About The State Of The UK’s Mental Health Following 2020
Access, and use of, mental health services has also been a source of worry for many industry professionals. According to statistics published by the Royal College Of Psychiatrists, “43% of psychiatrists have seen an increase in urgent and emergency cases following the COVID-19 lockdown […] At the same time, 45% of psychiatrists have seen a fall in their most routine appointments.”
Due to the fact that so many people are reaching out for much-needed mental health services, the RCP has been pleading for increased investment into said services due to the fact that the services are currently at risk of potentially being overwhelmed by the public’s increasing need for assistance.
President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Wendy Burn, explained, “We are already seeing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on mental health with more people in crisis.
But we are just as worried about the people who need help now but aren’t getting it. Our fear is that the lockdown is storing up problems which could then lead to a tsunami of referrals […] Mental health services will be at risk of being overwhelmed unless we see continued investment.”
What Is The Next Step For The UK?
The future is very uncertain at the moment for the mental wellbeing of the UK, and for that reason, it is of paramount importance that appropriate funding is provided to much-needed mental health charities and services.
The UK may well be on the brink of a mental health crisis, and as we all face the uncertainty of the months ahead, we will all need all of the help that we can get.