Pandemic causes 'double whammy' impact on mental health, according to campaigner

  • Watch Ben McGrail's report

A campaigner from Taunton has said the pandemic has created a ‘double whammy’ of poor mental health among young people and a lack of funds for support charities.

It’s feared that with many unable to go to school or university, more and more young adults are struggling.

Public health bodies and community groups across the West Country say they are trying hard to keep in contact with them.

19 year-old Haleem Clift produced this video about mental health for the charity Time to Change

Haleem Clift, 19, lives in Taunton and is a mental health campaigner for the charity Time to Change. He produced a short film for the organisation looking at how people manage their mental health.

He says he's worried about the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people: "I am struggling, even with so many tools and so many strategies. I take medication, I see people, I’ve got big support networks and still I’m finding it difficult.

"Because of the pandemic funding has also stopped for a lot of mental health charities and campaigns and I was speaking to, in the film, the founder of Time to Change and she was saying that it’s like a double whammy for people."

Sadie Trent says her mental health has suffered because she's had to do her university work at home Credit: ITV News West Country

Whilst young people aren’t the face of the pandemic, the charity UNICEF says they could become the biggest victims of it because of the impact on their mental health.

Sadie Trent is in her second year at university, but, because of the lockdown, she’s not at university - she’s at home in a flat in Bridgwater.

She says students are facing a mental health crisis: "It’s that anxiety of knowing the exams are approaching and they’re not cancelling our exams because they have made what they think are reasonable adjustments.

"I’d say it is a crisis and one that’s going to carry on for some time, I definitely will say that, and I know a lot of my friends say exactly the same thing."

Megan Boucher runs social groups online for young people in Bridgwater Credit: Megan Boucher

Despite the concerns, there is a lot of hard work being done to support young people through the lockdown. Megan Boucher helps to run online groups for Westfield United Reformed Church in Bridgwater.

She said: "It’s really important to me at the moment to continue what we’re doing with young people as much as possible to keep that regular contact with them.

"We know youth work is based on the foundation of relationships, and if you lose that then that’s going to have a really negative impact on mental health."

Catherine Falconer is a consultant in public health at Somerset County Council. She said: "One thing that Covid has really done is it’s brought together a lot of different groups from a lot of different places to work on more creative opportunities to help.

"We’ve seen much increased access to online support offers, people able to access support in their own homes when it suits them."

That support is going to continue to be vital. An NHS report published six months ago estimated one in six young people were experiencing problems with their mental health.

Where to go to get support with your mental health

There are multiple charities, including Mind, who are here to help. Below is a list of a few websites along with phone numbers of different charities who you can talk to.

Mind: 0300 123 3393

Samaritans: 116 123

YoungMinds: 0808 802 5544

Calm: 0800 58 58 58