Mental ill-health is experienced at any one time by around 1 in 4 people within the UK, with 1 in 5 in London. Poor mental health is often triggered by social and economic circumstances. We know that living in poverty, poor housing, and unemployment contribute to poor mental wellbeing. Traumatic events such as an attack or a car accident, a relationship breakdown or other experiences which cause fear, such as pandemic can lead to poor mental health. Believing that the pandemic has contributed to trauma at a national level. ‘COVID-19, and the response to the pandemic, could have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health through increased exposure to stressors. This has been exacerbated by the loss of usual support systems for many, and the much reduced access to mental health treatment.’(2)
These concerns and challenges around mental health were cited by 20% of survey respondents and were a prominent feature in the interviews and stories. People told us they were struggling with anxiety and stress, with the loss of freedom, lack of human contact and the disruption of daily routines. They also described feeling depressed, fearful and alone.
The sense of being trapped or stuck in one place and without usual structures was also difficult for some, and for those with ongoing or pre-existing mental health issues the pandemic has been extremely challenging:
When asked about new initiatives people would like to see in the community – provided by BDCA or by others – people prioritised social activities, things that brought them together with others. They mentioned dance, gardening, opportunities to be creative, physical activities, things that bring joy. There is a clear desire for activities to improve mental health including support groups, counselling, wellness sessions.
When asked about any positive aspects of the pandemic, a small minority had found ways to focus positively on their wellbeing and were using the time and space created by the changes to spend time outdoors, exploring the area and enjoying nature.
Some people expressed hope around mental health and wellbeing, saying that they were now achieving a more balanced life, and had found moments of peace and positivity. People looked forward to a return to normality, being able to connect with others again and being free to go where they chose, including travel.