It’s good to talk, so the saying goes, and for our mental health, this adage is certainly true. Suicide is the leading cause of death in men under 50 years of age; traditionally, however, men aren’t too good at talking about their problems. Thankfully, with the help of charities such as ‘Andy’s Man Club’, which holds regular meetings across the UK, suffering in silence may, hopefully, become a thing of the past.
There are a few reasons why such mental health charities are growing. A greater acceptance of mental health problems is one factor. A lack of public funding to frontline mental health support is another. Statistics like the one above are indeed harrowing; however, if there is a plus side, it’s that they can give sufferers of every gender the motivation to seek help before it’s too late.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the pandemic and locking down the nation is the isolation some people are feeling. This isn’t necessarily because they live on their own—you don’t have to be alone to be lonely. Their usual coping methods may not be allowed, due to government restrictions, which can significantly reduce the size of the sufferer’s world and make them feel as if their four walls are closing in on them.
If you can’t understand why mental health charities have been in even greater need since Covid introduced itself, consider the following scenarios and how you’d feel…
Not being able to say goodbye to a loved one because Covid prevented it. Not getting the appropriate treatment to a physical ailment because Covid prevented it. Having your business decimated by Covid. Spending week after week feeling isolated because Covid is rife. Worrying whether you will lose the roof over your head because Covid saw your job disappear. Being left with Long Covid after the virus rampaged through your immune system. Not seeing your wider family for months on end. Having to give birth alone. Receiving bad news about your health alone. Being effectively trapped in another country and unable to get home. Having a terminal illness but not being able to spend the remaining time with your family. Being allowed only a handful of people at a funeral for a wife, husband, mother, father, son, daughter…considering all the lives they will have touched. Having to find the motivation to work from home and maintain the same productivity levels as in the office. Months of incorporating home-schooling into your schedule. Feeling like there’s never any let up from the crisis, having nothing to look forward to…
Any one of these challenges would be enough to tip anyone over the edge—imagine having to face a number of them at the same time, whilst absorbing all the news around Covid and how many lives it continues to claim. Though the pandemic may not ever be able to fully gauge its impact on people’s physical health (and not just from contracting Covid, but other illnesses that have become untreatable due to delays in diagnosis/treatment, as well as the rate of suicide), the same could be said of mental health, which can often be tied to our physical state.
A study by one of the main mental health charities, Mind, shows that a third of those who struggled with poor mental health before the pandemic began found their symptoms worsened as a result of Covid measures. Poverty is linked to mental health issues, which is echoed in Mind’s report; it states that 58% of people receiving benefits describe their mental health as poor. And, as mentioned above, loneliness is a huge factor, with 9 out of every 10 young people interviewed citing this as the reason why their mental health has declined. With all the technology we have around us and the many ways we have to communicate with each other, it’s terrible to see so many of the next generation feeling lonely and isolated.
Though the need for mental health support has escalated through the roof since the beginning of 2020, funding from the government has not kept up with demand, which is why charities have been forced to step in and plug the gap, in a bid to reduce statistics like the one in the opening paragraph. No one cause is more worthy than another, however, and it’s a struggle for every third sector organisation to make theirs a priority in donors’ minds. Mental health charities, I believe, will be one element of the sector that will have no choice but to grow and grow over the coming years, such will be the need for their support.
According to some experts, the typical life span of a virus is three years, so there is the hope that we may see the beginning of the end of this pandemic as 2022 bows out. The impact to mental health as a result of the crisis, however, will be felt for decades.