Lockdown and isolation - Covid's impact on the South's mental health

  • Watch: the impact of Covid-19 on mental health

Life in lockdown is taking its toll on people's mental health as support organisations in the South prepare for a surge in demand.

Not being able to see family and friends, go to work, or bury a loved one in the way imagined - every aspect of life has been impacted by Covid-19.

It's those side effects of battling Coronavirus which have left many people fighting against anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Bryony Hacker on her daily walk Credit:

I join Bryony Hacker in Ashdown Forest in Sussex on her daily walk. It's part of a routine she is trying to keep to improve her mental health.

Before the pandemic, she tells me she dealt with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Covid-19's compounded those emotions and feelings,

"Lockdown has made my anxiety quite a lot worse. The uncertainty of it and the change of routine has made things a lot harder to deal with.

"You can get overwhelmed and things like that. I can’t see people that I would see or go to places that I would go, so having that change of routine and not having control over it I think is really something that’s been a struggle."

Bryony encourages people to be open about mental health Credit:

Bryony is part of the Time to Change campaign, essentially it's a way of encouraging people to be open about their mental health.

"Juggling with mental illness is hard enough but then having stigma on top is really difficult and makes things a lot worse. Talking about it can make you feel better so I would really suggest reaching out."

That's a message that couldn't be more relevant now as mental health support organisations expect increased demand for their services.

  • Mental health organisations expect demand to surge

MIND in Oxfordshire is already seeing patient numbers increases.

Dan Knowles runs the charity there, he knows people might not feel comfortable coming forward but says the key message is to 'reach out':

Nobody walks around with a sign on their neck saying I feel anxious today or I've got PTSD".

Dan Knowles, Oxfordshire MIND

However, at Medway Talking Therapies patient numbers are down.

Angela Shaw runs the service and want to highlight how important reaching out is:

People aren't going to the hospital as much, they're not going to see their GP as much. So they're not getting to hear about these kind of services that are available."

Angela Shaw, Medway Talking Therapies
  • Loss in lockdown

For those struggling to deal with the mental health impact of loss in lockdown here is help available too.

Burials and rituals have adapted because of Covid-19 with a celebration of someone's life now overshadowed by social distancing with services restricted to a few guests.

Andy Langford is from Cruse Bereavement Care,

"Not being able to attend a funeral is really difficult or not being able to attend with all the people you would want to. People come to us and say, 'I just wanted a hug with my mum and dad and I couldn't get that because they don't live with us'."

  • Support moving online

Face to face support sessions are not taking place right now for obvious reasons but people are being given help either over the phone or online through video call.

Solent NHS Trust Clinical Psychologist Dr Thomas Richardson holds weekly sessions with service user Juno Jakob to help his mental health.

Dr Richardson says it's important services keep running,

"It might not be exactly the same but I think people are getting fairly used to it. This is a really challenging time for people, a lot of us will be feeling anxious and worried for the future. For some of our service users who have mental health problems that's even more the case. Being as present as we can is really important."

For Juno, the fact he can continue talking to Dr Richardson is so key,

Everything builds up for a week and then you get this release on a Monday morning."

Juno Jakob, service user

We have all been asked to 'stay alert' but clearly Covid-19 is not the only health problem that needs focus.

  • Links to organisations referred to in this report

Medway Talking Therapies

Oxforshire MIND

Cruse Bereavement Care