If you’ve suffered from low mood, anxiety, or stress during the last few months, you’re not alone. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to heightened mental health strain, with millions of people struggling with isolation, illness, bereavement and concerns over financial security and job losses.
Calls to mental health helplines and antidepressant use have reached an all-time high in the UK – and it’s not just adults who are experiencing issues. Read on to find out how Covid-19 has impacted mental health, and for some tips on how you can manage your mental health in 2021.
Number of people on anti-depressants reaches all-time high in the UK
Figures from the Guardian have revealed the scale of the mental health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Calls to mental health helplines and prescriptions for antidepressants have reached an all-time high in recent months, while access to potentially lifesaving talking therapies has fallen significantly.
The Guardian investigation found that more than six million people in England received antidepressants in the three months to September 2020, part of a wider trend and the highest figure on record.
The fall in referrals to NHS psychological therapies services is thought to have been down to counselling services going online, which some doctors have deemed inappropriate for certain patients. Others were reluctant to seek face-to-face help or add extra pressure to already struggling health services.
The report comes just months after the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of adults in Britain with depression doubled during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Gary Howsam, the vice-chair of the Royal College of GPs, said its members had reported an increase in the number of patients presenting with mental health concerns, including anxiety and low moods, during the pandemic.
“While for some these symptoms may be mild, for others they could be risk factors for self-harm and suicidal behaviour and, as such, GPs take these concerns very seriously.
“An increase in antidepressant prescribing over the course of the pandemic is not surprising, given the difficult circumstances people are living under and should not automatically be seen as a negative thing,” he added.
Children’s mental health also a serious concern
Studies have found that it isn’t just adults whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic.
Children being referred to the NHS with serious mental health problems has also reached a record high, as the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned the Covid-19 pandemic risks a generation being lost to “lifelong” illness.
The college said that school closures, cancelled exams, empty lecture halls, and lockdown threatened a mental health crisis that could plague the current generation of children for years to come.
The latest NHS figures show the number of children referred to child and adolescent mental health services was 4,615 per 100,000, the highest on record and up nearly 20% on 2019.
3 tips to help you manage your mental health during the pandemic
Mental health charities have seen a sharp rise in calls to their helplines in recent months. Rosie Weatherley, Information Content Manager at Mind, the mental health charity, recommends that, if you’re struggling, you should try and focus on creating coping mechanisms.
She told the Daily Mail: ''It’s OK to feel overwhelmed or upset about everything happening right now. Many of us hoped 2021 would be better than last year, but things will still be difficult for the first few months at least.
“The vaccination offers hope, but not immediately, so try to accept your feelings, create positive coping mechanisms, and focus on the fact that it won’t be like this forever.”
Here are three tips that could help you to manage your mental health during the pandemic.
1. Make sure you connect with others
While repeated lockdowns have made it hard for us to meet up with friends or family, it’s important that you try and connect with other people if you can. This could be through:
- Video calls
- Phone calls
- Instant messages or texts
If you're worried that you might run out of things to talk about, make plans to watch a TV show, film, or theatre together. Or join up with friends as a team in an online quiz or start a book club where you read a book separately and then discuss it with each other when you speak.
You could even join a peer support community. Many organisations (including Mind) run online peer support communities where you can share your experiences and hear from others.
If you’re not comfortable with technology, or you prefer not to use a phone or computer, you could try writing letters or postcards.
2. Find ways to relax, be creative, and keep your mind stimulated
There are many ways you can relax, remain in the moment, and express your feelings creatively. This could include:
- Sewing or crafting
- Drawing, painting, or colouring
- Learning or playing a musical instrument, signing, or listening to music
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Yoga or exercise (see below)
You can support your own mental health by keeping your brain occupied and challenged. Think about reading books, magazines, and articles, listening to podcasts, watching films, or doing puzzles.
3. Look after your physical health
Physical and mental health are linked, so it can sometimes be difficult to take care of your physical health when you’re stressed or anxious. However, looking after your body can have a positive impact on your mental health.
Firstly, make sure you eat well (and regularly). Keeping a balanced diet can help your mood and energy levels so make sure you eat plenty of each food group, including fruit and vegetables.
Drinking enough water is important for your health so make sure you stay hydrated.
If you’re shielding or self-isolating, ask someone to drop off essential food items for you. Ask them to leave food at your doorstep, to avoid face-to-face contact with each other. If you’re anxious about going to the supermarket, see if there’s a volunteer in your local community that can help you.
Finally, you should make sure you build physical activity into your daily routine. Whether that’s joining a Joe Wicks PE lesson or simply going for a walk, it’s vital that you take some regular exercise.
If you’re anxious about heading outside, there are many ways you can get exercise indoors:
- Cleaning your home
- Walking up and down stairs
- Chair-based exercise
- Online workouts
- Standing up regularly – try not to stay seated for more than an hour at a time.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, one of your concerns might be that you won’t be able to get the life insurance you need to protect your loved ones.
However, many insurers are happy to accept applications for cover from people with diagnosed conditions. We work with dozens of the top UK insurers to get the cover that our customers need – even if they have been diagnosed with stress, depression, or anxiety.
Our expert team is experienced in dealing with the sensitivity of mental health life insurance and can help you find suitable cover. Find out more about our specialist mental health life insurance services on our website and read more about how we can help customers with specific mental health conditions.
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