Covid lockdown mentioned by 80% of callers to suicide prevention helpline

It’s been a week since England learned it was about to be plunged into a second national lockdown and two days since restrictions were tightened.

But if there was any doubt about the impact on our mental health, ITV News has learned that in the first 48 hours after the news emerged, one suicide prevention helpline saw a rise in calls by almost a third - 27% - from the previous weekend.

Papyrus is the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide which remains the biggest killer of under 35-year-olds in the UK.

When the first countrywide lockdown began in spring, it was weeks before calls associated with it began to come in.

This time the change was immediate.

Charlotte Highcock, Hopeline manager at Papyrus, told ITV News: "It was uncertainty and worry, fears about isolation and being lonely again.

"Not being able to access the support that they previously had and fears of becoming ill as well and for their loved ones."

After a government leak revealed lockdown was imminent last Friday, counsellors staffing the charity’s helpline noticed a dramatic change.

80% of callers mentioned lockdown - with the fear of isolation and money worries leaving callers desperate for help.

Ella Speak, 17, from Huddersfield has spent her teens struggling with suicidal thoughts and self-harming.

The sixth former also has autism, but Ella has put everything into controlling her depression and anxiety, achieving a clutch of top-grade GCSEs along the way.

The local charity, which provided her with counselling, lost its funding just before the first lockdown started.

Now, with West Yorkshire in and out of restrictions over the past few months, much of the support network she relied on has gone.

"I struggled quite badly with suicidal thoughts and self harm," Ella told ITV News.

"I thought I was getting better and then lockdown came along unfortunately," she added.

Now after two years clean, she fears of a relapse.

"When the rumours came of being put into a national lockdown I just didn't think I could cope because I’d used up so much energy in the first lockdown trying to stay sane and get through it, without relapsing into my self harm," she said.

Papyrus is just one of many charities now calling for swift government action to avert a looming mental health crisis.

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

  • Papyrus offer support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.