Britain is in the grip of a mental health pandemic as Covid and lockdowns have left soaring numbers of people struggling with an array of problems and even feeling suicidal.
In a shocking Mirror survey, one in four adults quizzed revealed their state of mind was now worse than before the virus struck.
And experts fear if Boris Johnson does not urgently tackle the desperate situation we will be plunged into a post-Covid mental health crisis that could take more than a generation to recover from.
One in 12 of all adults polled has had panic attacks, and one in 15 has battled suicidal thoughts. Within the group who said their mental health has worsened, one in eight has even tried to take their own life.
In general, older age groups have coped better during the pandemic, but those aged 55 to 64 struggled most with anxiety, cited by 80% of them. The 18 to 24-year-olds were the next most anxious, with 72% suffering.
Children have been hit hard, too – 13% of parents said their kids have experienced mental health problems and many had even been given pills for depression or anxiety.
A 10th of those given drugs are aged four and under, and a quarter younger than 11.
It follows NHS figures that showed a record high 65,533 for referrals to child and adolescent mental health services for March, double the same time last year.
Experts said the situation was desperate enough before Covid shut down the country, with chronic underfunding crippling mental health services, but warned the £500million No10 pledged in July to address the problem comes too late and is nowhere near enough.
Lockdowns, job loss fears and uncertainty are triggering psychological issues and making existing illnesses worse.
Mental Health UK chief executive Brian Dow said: “These findings show the true dimensions of the pandemic on mental health.
“If we’ve learnt one thing over the last 18 months, it is that by acting quickly we can avoid a catastrophe, so the Government should take notice and develop a genuine post-pandemic mental health plan.
“Failing to respond quickly means the youngest generation will be among those paying the highest price for years to come.”
Steve Reigate Daily Express)
Shadow Mental Health Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan added: “The impact this has on mental health cannot be downplayed.
“That’s before we look at the growing waiting times for mental health services.”
Association of Child Psychotherapists spokeswoman Rachel Melville-Thomas said: “Before the pandemic, mental health services were already at crisis point. And that’s before you even get to Covid exacerbating problems like anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
“When young people were stuck at home, they could feel very low quite quickly.”
Jon Corken/Grimsby Live)
The Mirror’s exclusive poll of 1,598 adults across all demographics, ahead of next Sunday’s World Mental Health Day, marks the beginning of our seven-day investigation into the pandemic’s effect on mental health.
Of those who told us their state of mind has suffered during Covid, one in four has been diagnosed with a condition and one in eight is still waiting for an appointment or diagnosis. Approaching half (43%) said it had been difficult to get help from the NHS.
Prescriptions for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills were common, with 69% of adults who sought help being given them.
Of those quizzed by Deltapoll for the Mirror who at least one child under 18 living at home, some 13% said their kid struggled and 7% had to put them on medication.
The biggest group were aged 12 to 14, the oldest of which are just beginning GCSE classes, followed by 15 to 18-year-olds whose exams were hit by lockdowns.
NHS figures released in August revealed a record 231,791 prescriptions were handed out to kids aged five to 16 in 2020.
Damningly, 77% of all those polled felt No10 either did not grasp the severity of the situation or were not funding services properly. It also found one in five has struggled with social anxiety as we return to workplaces, while one in seven suffer it just leaving home.
The Daily Mirror is today launching our new campaign HeadStrong: Better Mental Health For All.
We’re calling for:
- Early Access Mental Health Hubs for under 25s to be rolled out across the country, with at least one for each trust.
- Waiting times to be cut so people actually start treatment with a professional within four weeks
- The Govt to fill in the gaps in care – an end of red tape which means many don’t fit the set criteria to get help plus 8,500 more mental health staff
- Compulsory Mental Health education lessons in schools, plus paid counsellors in schools and care homes
Want to help? Write to your MP and ask them to support the current Early Day Motion 459 to debate mental health and the pandemic in parliament.
The Department of Health said it was “investing £2.3billion a year more in mental health by 2023/24”. That will help two million more people, but there are 1.6 million already on the waiting list and 1.5 million extra children alone expected to need help in the next three years.
But Dr Melville-Thomas added: “I’d like to see increased funding for child mental health services now. If a 13-year-old is having difficulties, they will turn into a troubled adult who could be violent or hurt themselves, unless you do something now.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last week branded the crisis in mental health “one of the most urgent needs of our time”.
Of those quizzed in our survey, 19% of said their mental health has improved.
How to get help: If you are struggling or you are worried about a loved one, contact Samaritans on 116123. For more advice visit nhs.uk/mental-health or www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus