One in five UK adults still feel “hopeless” as the coronavirus lockdown is lifted, according to the charity the Mental Health Foundation.
One of the groups most seriously affected by feelings of hopelessness is young adults, with almost a third (32%) of people aged 18 to 24 admitting that they have felt hopeless during the pandemic.
About the same proportion (31%) of people with pre-existing mental health conditions and a quarter of unemployed people said they felt the same way during the lockdown.
The results of the survey of 4,294 adults, conducted in mid-June, were released as part of a major longitudinal study, Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic, which is led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Swansea, Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.
“What our research shows is that even as lockdown is easing, millions are still struggling,” said Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Mental Health Foundation director. “That is why we need to urgently see a whole-government mental health response and recovery plan.
“We’re not all in this together. It’s clear that the pandemic remains a much more devastating experience for certain groups – who number millions of people.”
However, the survey also identified some signs that the situation is beginning to improve. Levels of anxiety and worry about the pandemic have fallen across the population, from 62% of people surveyed at the beginning of lockdown to 49% of those responding to the most recent survey.
Professor Tine Van Bortel from the University of Cambridge said: “It is good news that anxiety and worry have fallen, but this should not obscure the fact that vulnerable groups are actually struggling more.
“The UK and devolved governments must respond to their needs, to prevent many people’s current mental distress from escalating into tragic long-term consequences.
“We know that socio-economic inclusion of all groups in society is crucial for people’s wellbeing, thriving communities and a flourishing economy. Any policies and strategies going forward should therefore be developed in meaningful consultation and partnership with all key stakeholder groups and the wider public, to ensure that they adequately and sustainably address all needs in going forward. There is a unique opportunity now to do things better and get it right.”
Meanwhile, a survey of more than 16,000 people by mental health charity Mind found 65% people over 25 and 75% of people aged 13 to 24 with an existing mental health problem reported worse mental health during the lockdown.
Twenty-two per cent of people with no previous experience of poor mental health told the charity that their mental health was now poor or very poor.
Those who were furloughed, changed jobs or lost their job due to coronavirus saw their mental health decline more than those whose employment status remained the same, with 73% reporting lower than average wellbeing scores compared to 66% of those whose employment didn’t change.
Mind said there will be five “key tests” for the government as part of its recovery plan for mental health: investing in community services; protecting those most at risk and addressing inequalities faced Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities; reforming the Mental Health Act; providing a financial safety net through the benefits system; and supporting children and young people.
Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: “The coronavirus pandemic is as much a mental health emergency as it is a physical one. The devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, and the inevitable recession that lies ahead will leave a deep and lasting scar on our nation’s mental health.”