According to the National Mental Health Foundation, the distribution of infections and deaths during the Covid pandemic, the lockdown and associated measures, and the longer-term socioeconomic impact are likely to reproduce and intensify the financial inequalities that contribute to the increased prevalence and unequal distribution of mental ill-health.
These findings are echoed by numerous other studies and reports, indicating that the UK is currently facing a serious crisis of mental health and well-being. For example, a 2021 report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that around 1 in 5 (21%) adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021 (27 January to 7 March); this is an increase since November 2020 (19%) and more than double that observed before the Covid pandemic (10%).
This trend is particularly worrying given the long-term effects that chronic stress and anxiety can have on an individual’s overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to stress and uncertainty can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and depression.
In light of these, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) CEO Simon Gunning responds to the National Audit Progress report on improving mental health services in England.
“Sadly, this is a damning indictment of the Government’s failures to grip what has become a mental health emergency. We shouldn’t sugar coat it, the mental health crisis we’re facing is a cross-generational issue that almost touches everyone in our society, ripping through the heart of our communities brought on by over a decade of austerity and underfunding of our services.
The figures speak for themselves, we’ve seen a 44% increase in referrals to NHS mental health services since 2016. And in 2021, 8 million people in England who were struggling with their mental health did not qualify for the support they needed – leaving NHS services with no option but to directly signpost to charities like our own to bridge the gap. To put that into context in 2022 CALM had over 3 million minutes of potentially lifesaving calls via our helpline and webchat services, across a range of issues including anxiety, stress, loneliness and relationship concerns. And in the face of rising everything, bills, food, petrol, energy, things are only going to get busier.
It’s evident the government has come woefully short on its promise of a visionary new plan for mental health, but it’s not a time for pointing fingers. Its time for action. Urgently.”
It is clear that the UK Government must take urgent action to address this growing problem, starting with a comprehensive approach to addressing financial insecurity and unemployment. This could include measures such as expanding access to affordable housing, providing targeted support for struggling families and businesses, and investing in mental health resources and services.
In addition to these policy solutions, it is also important for individuals to take steps to care for their own mental health and well-being. This can include simple things like staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, and staying connected with friends and family, as well as seeking out professional support when needed.
The current trend of misery and unhappiness among UK residents is a serious and pressing issue that demands immediate attention from policymakers and individuals alike. By working together to address the underlying causes of stress and anxiety, and taking steps to support one another’s mental health, we can help to create a brighter future for all UK residents.