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'It's just total despair, you feel very alone': the affect of lockdown on mental health

Ellie DePasquale is shielding and hasn't seen anyone for eight weeks. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ellie DePasquale from Bury St Edmuds says on some days her little dog is the only thing that keeps her going. She’s shielding and hasn’t seen friends or family for more than eight weeks. The isolation makes her feel hopeless.

“It’s just total despair. You do feel very alone. I’ve found one day seems to go into the next day. I’m sleeping for half the day and I’m up half the night. My depression has gone right down. And I’m quite embarrassed to say but I have thought about self harming."

– Ellie DePasquale
Ellie DePasquale at home in Bury St Edmunds. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Since lock down began the number of people who’ve reported feeling lonely has more than doubled, according to the Institute of Public Health.

24%
Of adults say they've felt lonely as a result of coronavirus
44%
In young people aged 18-24 the number rises to almost half

Experts are warning this crisis will have a profound and potentially long-lasting effect on people’s mental health.

Isolation, loneliness and anxieties over health, jobs, finances and childcare are all affecting our sense of wellbeing.

And on top of all that, people don’t have the support networks and routine in their lives that ground us all.

Combine that with not seeing friends and family and the fear is, as time goes on, the mental health crisis could escalate.

The charity SANE have had a 200% increase in callers using their helpline during lockdown - with almost a third of callers saying they are actively suicidal.

Marjorie Wallace, the Chief Exec of the charity SANE Credit: ITV News Anglia

“People are not just talking about it, they have active intent. And there’s been an increase in self-harm as a way of coping with this fear and anxiety. We feel we’re sitting on a time bomb and that as the days, the weeks, the months go on, we’re going to have more and more people become seriously and critically ill.”

– Marjorie Wallace, CEO Sane

And charities like Suffolk Mind are having to adapt how they work to try and give increasing numbers of people the counselling and help they need during isolation.

“We’ve received an increased number of distressed calls. We’ve been working very closely with local NHS Trusts to increase capacity to handle those calls and moving more of our service online, so we’re having support groups on online platforms, which is something we haven’t really done before.”

– Ezra Hewing, Suffolk Mind

Charities and medical experts say action needs to be taken now to tackle the crisis with more mental health staff and psychiatric beds and more welfare checks for those at risk.

This is a huge challenge in light of the current viral epidemic, but the warning is, if we don’t tackle these issues now, we’ll soon be facing a mental health epidemic too.

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