The past year has been particularly challenging for many of us, as COVID-19 and numerous lockdowns have inevitably impacted on all of our lives to different extents.
Sadly, many have lost beloved family members and friends, and have struggled to process grief, which has been exacerbated by the difficulties there has been in accessing in-person support.
And for some, the increase in social isolation has meant not being able to follow our usual routine and do the things that we love. This can cause us to become trapped in a low mood, and we might find it incredibly hard to be motivated.
Many of the last year’s headlines have correctly identified the wider impact that COVID-19 has had on mental health. For example, an article in Nature showed that the percentage of adults in the UK reporting depression symptoms had increased from 10% to 19% between July 2019 and June 2020. This is a huge increase in depressive symptoms – almost double.
Researchers believed that this surge is due to limited social interactions, tensions within families, combined with a fear of catching the virus.
Surprisingly however, after a year of lockdown, the proportion of the UK population experiencing anxiety and worry has dropped from 62% in late March 2020 to 42% in February this year.
What could have caused these changes?
What help is available?
To support those finding their mental health affected during the pandemic, Meridian Wellbeing has been providing a range of online support services, including weekly wellbeing webinars, guided self-help resources and access to psychological interventions.
One of the issues that we regularly face from those we support, and something we are campaigning to raise awareness of, is the stigma attached to mental health.
Stigma attached to mental health
Despite the undeniable prevalence of anxiety, low mood and even suicidal thoughts, stigma continues to be attached to poor mental health, often preventing people from seeking the help they need.
Mental Health is not visible and people often do not want to be judged by it.
It may raise questions in a person's mind such as 'Is there ‘something wrong with me?’, and arguably, for some people, is more frightening than a physical condition.
According to a recent study by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, this stigma could prevent 40% of people struggling with anxiety and depression from seeking professional support.
What can we do to reduce stigma and support others?
At Meridian Wellbeing, we believe in giving a voice to those who have found themselves marginalised because of their mental health, and ensuring that their wishes are recognised and put at the heart of their journey to wellbeing.
You do not have to be a mental health expert to support others, or even yourselves, to get through this difficult time.
The myths and stigma attached to mental health can be reduced by educating ourselves and others in the realities of these conditions. In so doing, we can challenge any negative assumptions and judgments that we were conditioned to make.
Providing insight and expertise is a key part of Meridian Wellbeing’s campaign work. We recommend having a listen to our podcast, The Word On Wellbeing, or reading some of our other blogs, to learn more about the realities of mental health, especially from those living with poor mental health.
On a more human level, we should all try to be inclusive and supportive towards people struggling with these difficulties. By simply listening with an open ear and acknowledging the pain and hardship that they are going through, even though we might not be able to resolve the problem for them, it will still mean the world to those struggling with their mental health.
If you found this interesting, you might be interested in becoming a Peer Support Volunteer. These individuals are trained to provide general, friendly support, to those struggling with social isolation and the lockdown. You can find out more, including how to register, here.