Mental health has become a buzzword, with members of the royal family and celebrities chiming in. But Covid-19 has left millions around the world dealing with loss, grief, and insecurity—it's time to move beyond PR-friendly initiativesby Emily Reynolds / June 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
Even if you don’t personally live with the same problems that many of us do, then a moment’s reflection will reveal how the current crisis of physical health will inevitably bear on mental health too. With millions infected by Covid-19 and hundreds of thousands dead around the world, no area of life has gone unaffected: businesses closed, jobs lost, friends separated, relatives grieving. And these are merely the more obvious effects. Beyond the lost lives and livelihoods there is a ubiquitous worry about getting sick, plus a pervasive sense of uncertainty, insecurity and gnawing anxiety that has seeped through the locked-down economy. In the UK, around nine million people are expected to be furloughed, many of them facing an agonisingly precarious future. Sinking incomes have already translated into around a million new claims for universal credit, a new benefit that was synonymous with delays and hardship before the sudden crisis hit it.
Meanwhile, those who are still in demand from employers have different problems, whether it’s NHS and care staff with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) or manual and service workers who can’t afford not to work, can’t do so from home, and must now set off with no greater protection against the virus than gratingly cheerful government advice about “staying alert” and, if possible, somehow getting there without catching the bus. No wonder that even those without any history of mental illness are starting to feel the strain.
“Because there’s no vaccine or known way of getting to the other side, the level of uncertainty is through the roof,” explains therapist Simon Coombs. “At the moment, we have no control. So for someone who’s never really struggled… they’ve really been dropped in at the deep end.”
Jon, an office worker from Sheffield in his late 30s, had previously supported friends and an ex-partner through various issues with their mental health. But, until the coronavirus pandemic, he had never struggled himself. “I feel quite naive now,” he says, “because I thought that looking after people who weren’t well meant I understood what it was…