Charity warns coronavirus could lead to 'mental health epidemic'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson

A mental health charity has warned the coronavirus pandemic could trigger a different kind of crisis.

SANE have warned that while the focus has been on the physical health of the country, the impact of coronavirus on people's mental health could pose a risk in itself.

Calls to the charity's mental health helpline have risen dramatically since the outbreak began, with 80% of people phoning SANEline over the past two week citing worries over Covid-19.

Marjorie Wallace, CEO of Sane, warns of a new kind of epidemic in the wake of coronavirus. Credit: ITV News

"Loneliness can be a killer. A study of 300,000 people found that it is associated with a 29% increase in mortality. In other words, it is a significant factor in poorer health outcomes and premature death and we need to balance these risks," the charity said.

Marjorie Wallace, SANE CEO told ITV News warns the signs point to another crisis looming.

"We're all concentrating on the physical sides of coronavirus, but actually we're facing a mental health epidemic," Ms Wallace said.

SANEline has seen calls rise, with the majority citing concerns over coronavirus. Credit: ITV News

"Those that are already maybe at the edge are going to find it becomes more intolerable".

Consultant psychologist Dr Elena Touroni told ITV News: "It's new, it's unknown, it's very unfamiliar to us, we haven't been through an experience like this in our lifetime.

"The fear becomes about the illness itself and then for another sub group, of course, there's a huge amount of anxiety about the loss of their job, about the financial impact of what that will mean for them on a personal level."

The priority for the NHS in the fight against Covid-19 on its frontline operation.

But for people like Andre Petrolo, who is currently self-isolating with a fever and cough and who has struggled with anxiety and depression for 16 years, the mental battle is every bit as difficult as the physical.

Andre, talking to ITV News from his balcony, has seen his anxiety worsen over his self-isolation period. Credit: ITV News

"It's just brought everything right up in front of my face," he told ITV News.

"This last week has been quite up and down. Some days have been better than others. Some days have been not so great.

"It's a real struggle just trying to take it a day at a time."

Andre told ITV News that he felt the confusion and the unknowingness of the pandemic had exacerbated his anxiety

"It's definitely not as manageable as it was a couple of weeks ago."

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