A large proportion of Brits have suffered from mental health issues during lockdown, but most have kept it to themselves, new research suggests.
According to the study by Bupa, 82% of Brits have suffered from mental health issues, including continuous low mood, anxiousness, low self-esteem or hopelessness, during lockdown. However, almost half (44%) admitted to not telling anyone about their experiences. This represents a significant rise from 2019, when one in four (22%) people admitted bottling their feelings up.
Despite increasing symptoms of poor mental health during the COVID-19 crisis, just one in 20 (5%) survey respondents said they had spoken to a medical professional, while almost half (45%) said they will not seek help in the future. Others said they plan to wait almost two months (49 days) before opening up, while one in five said they plan to wait until things are ‘back to normal’ before reaching out for support.
Many Brits simply grin and bear it
The study also revealed a tendency for people to ‘grin and bear’ the pressure they are under (43%), while others (23%) said it is not the right time to make a “fuss” about their mental health. Interestingly, this is particularly common among baby boomers (defined as those born from 1946 to 1964), who wait, on average, 65 days before reaching out for help. According to the study, women leave it 15 days longer, on average, than men.
Meanwhile, separate research from the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a mental health crisis in the UK unless extra support is provided.
In its “The impact of COVID-19 on mental health in England; Supporting services to go beyond parity of esteem” paper, the BMA makes a number of key recommendations for the UK Government to ‘support mental health services to achieve the long-overdue parity with physical health services’.
The BMA says that social isolation, the experience of living through the pandemic and the expected economic downturn will all negatively impact mental wellbeing. The aforementioned Bupa research also showed that over half of adults (52%) admitted to being worried about what life will be like as lockdown lifts and we move towards a ‘new normal’. This highlights that the situation is only likely to get worse, despite pandemic restrictions easing.
Things are only likely to get worse
Nearly half of Brits also feel anxious about the thought of riding on public transport again, or being around large groups of people.
Worryingly, a recent BMA survey found that an increasing number of medical professionals (45%) were also experiencing stress, exhaustion and burnout.
BMA mental health policy lead, Dr Andrew Molodynski, urged the government to address the situation, saying: “Rather than hurtling toward a post-COVID mental health crisis, this pandemic must be used as an opportunity to evaluate the current provision of mental health services. This means once and for all giving mental health services the long-overdue parity they have desperately needed to ensure we move forward for the better”.
Mental health and wellbeing has, quite rightly, gained a lot of attention in recent years. However, we are currently facing an unprecedented time in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which is why employers need to be doing everything they can to help support their employees’ mental health.
Claire Ginnelly is the Managing Director of Premier Choice Health and has been in the private medical insurance industry since 1991. All her experience has been gained working for large insurance companies managing the distribution of health insurance products through intermediaries. She has held senior positions within Standard Life Healthcare, as Head of Intermediary Sales, and Groupama Healthcare, as Head of Distribution.