Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has conducted a longitudinal study to evaluate the state of the nation’s mental health over what has been a uniquely challenging year.
This landmark study stretches from March 2020 all the way through to February of this year and is a thoroughly comprehensive look into how our mental health has been affected by three lockdowns, and the pandemic at large.
The Mental Health Foundation has deemed the results as a “mixed picture”, with optimistic figures on anxiety levels falling by 20% (from 62% to 42%) between March 2020 and February of this year, but other factors such as loneliness which has risen from 10% to 26% and coping well with the stress from the pandemic has fallen by 9%, shows a much bleaker outlook on the year that has passed.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director for England and Wales at MHF spoke on these mixed results of the study, “It is absolutely important to remember that the experience of the past year has not been shared by everyone. We have all been in the same storm, but we have not all been in the same boat. The Coronavirus vaccine brings hope. The warmer weather brings smiles. However, for many of us, the next few months – and even years – will remain tough, vulnerable, and uncertain.”
This sentiment is clearly the defining feature of whether people have been able to adapt and adjust to the stresses of the pandemic, or whether living, financial or personal situations have made it so that adaption as been impossible, instead stress and worry compounds over time.
MHF have stated that they’d hoped this study would identify those most severely affected by the stress, loneliness and anxiety brought on by the pandemic.
Dr Kousoulis has said they’ve identified this most vulnerable group, stating “We can now see clearly that among the most seriously affected people are young adults, people who are unemployed and full-time students. In these groups, painful experiences including loneliness, hopelessness and feeling suicidal are much more common.”
A concerning increase in this younger age bracket is that of suicidality. In April 2020, 8% of people asked reported having thoughts or feelings about suicide within the previous two weeks. When asked again in February 2021, this had risen to 13%.
- See also: 'The 'mental health pandemic' and its relationship with money'
- See also: 'Women and girl's mental health is in crisis one year into the pandemic: Agenda reports’
- See also: 'It's becoming apparent that we are facing a dual mental health crisis'
As a result of of this study, MHF have been working with a variety of government and international bodies to create policy that acts on these findings. They hope to continue to work collaboratively with these bodies to safeguard these most vulnerable groups.
A particular area for concern is the increasing negative effects on those with already existing mental health problems. In response to this, and the already apparent strain on mental health services and organisations, The Mental Health Foundation have pledged to invest at least £1 million to provide the support that those hardest hit by the pandemic need: this includes People of Colour, single parents, and those with pre-existing physical and mental health problems.
Upon reflection on the MHF study and more recent information, such as the report by Agenda, it is clear the country is most definitely not out of the woods yet; but the right people, such as MFH, are working hard to make sure we don't fall further into a crisis.