Multiple mental health charities have told the Government to learn lessons from the first lockdown, and to put mental health care funding central in their policy response to the imminent lockdown 2.0.
Possibly alarmed by a report that showed that Covid-19 infections are doubling every nine days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last weekend a month-long second lockdown across England that is due to come in force on November 5th. Under the new restrictions pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops, and gyms will be closed, and travel will only be allowed for work, education, healthcare, and shopping for essentials.
Earlier this year the first nationwide lockdown has been widely linked to substantial declines in the mental health for many. Feelings of isolation and economic anxiety have exacerbated underlying problems and has led to manifestations of trauma, depression, and overwhelming stress – such as drug misuse, domestic abuse, and excessive alcohol consumption that can borderline dependency.
It is ‘vital’ that access to mental health services are maintained during lockdown
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said that: “There is an urgent need for a Winter Mental Health Support Package now from the Government. This must include access to face to face and online mental health services for those who need it. And this time round we need to pay particular attention to people with serious mental health problems at risk of imminent crisis, as well as the wider challenges of the pandemic on the general public’s mental health.”
“During the first wave we saw mental health bed capacity being sacrificed to ease pressure on other parts of the system, but this cannot happen again; demand for these beds is increasing and will only continue to do so as we head into winter.”
Brian Dow, deputy CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, also emphasised that it is critical that services are maintained during the period leading up to December, and that people should be “actively encouraged to seek support if they’re struggling.”
He added: “The government must also step up and prioritise the nation’s mental health. In the face of continued uncertainty and disruption this means sufficient funding and resources for the NHS, and a cross-government response to ensure the welfare system works effectively alongside health and social care services to respond to people’s needs in the difficult months ahead.”
A Samaritans spokesperson said: “It’s vital that as the restrictions and uncertainty continues, that people who are at most risk of suicide - such as less well-off men, young people and those with pre-existing mental conditions - are able to access effective support as soon as they need it... We also want to see a cross-government mental health recovery plan with these groups at its centre.”
Similarly, Anxiety UK released a statement that said: ‘It is going to be a tough few weeks ahead, especially for those facing financial and employment insecurity, [and] particularly if they live alone or have limited family/other support networks’.
Anxiety UK recommended that everyone regularly exercise, practice self-care, and mindful activities – although admitting that these techniques may not be sufficient for everyone, and that many will require ‘much more structured professional help’. And therefore, as well stressed that it is ‘vital’ that timely access to mental health services are maintained.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care has said that they have already given £10.2 million to mental health charities during this pandemic, so that they could expand their available mental health support; and have further pledged to increase investment in mental health services in England by an additional £2.3 billion by 2023/24.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that: “We would encourage people who may be struggling with mental illnesses to come forward for help. Mental health services have remained open for business, with talking therapies operating remotely so people can access help safely from home, and ongoing face to face support continuing where appropriate.”