Written by Megan Evans
Design by Ellen Stanton
Mental health has been an increasing issue throughout the lockdown, and it is not a shock to see the figures dramatically rising by the day. It is estimated that this time last year, 1 in 10 people were experiencing some form of poor mental health illness. That figure has now doubled. It is scary to contemplate the horrors that pandemic has had on the livelihoods of so many.
The Health Foundation released statistics in June that showed that more than two-thirds of the UK population felt somewhat or extremely worried about the effect of COVID-19 on their livelihoods, expressing concern about the future and general anxiety.
The internet may well exacerbate these feelings. Social media use rose during lockdown which whilst had its benefits in allowing us to communicate with estranged friends and families, also meant more exposure to the constant bombardment of COVID-19 news.
Nevertheless, various mental health charities have sought to harness the power of the internet for good. In May, the Mental Health Foundation promoted a ‘kindness week’, using Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness, share stories and generate participation. Mind, Britain’s biggest mental health charity, has similarly expanded its online presence: encouraging the use of Zoom support groups, recruiting more volunteers for its online helplines and increasing the information available on its website and social media pages. I think this is promising: we must promote discussions about mental health in every article written, every post that is uploaded to Instagram and every film that is now being shot.
Yet, in spite of this progress, there is much that still needs to be done.
As a Cardiff Uni student, I was informed the other week by email that student support cannot be run for a period of 3 weeks during the summer due to underfunding and a loss of income as a consequence of the pandemic. This seems a grave miscalculation, at a time when so many students are needing more support than before, whether that be a returning student or one about to start their university journey. Suffering mental health issues can be hugely debilitating and support is crucial to prevent conditions worsening. Even if just one person a day benefits from the system (which is far from the case), it is still worth keeping it open.
Indeed, improving mental health cannot merely be confined to online initiatives that are often easy to miss. Mental health provision in schools, workplaces and community groups is crucial to helping build a solid network of care and support. There are so many forms this may take: group discussion sessions, activities, compulsory lessons or workshops, campaigns. There are boundless opportunities for improving mental health provision in the UK, what is needed is funding and engagement. We must normalise mental health in the physical places we exist as well as in the online ones.
Mental health is an integral part of overall well being. Whilst mental health issues are often invisible this does not mean they are not there. During a time of great uncertainty, it is more important than ever to not lose sight of the hidden battles that many are facing.