Online Features Editor Rebecca Wells discusses possible causes and ramifications of recent statistics surrounding mental health in Britain.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that twice as many adults in Britain are reporting symptoms of depression now compared with this time last year, and it has been the subject for not just a handful of news stories in the media over the last weeks.
There is never a single set of universal causes of depression and other mental illnesses, and it differs from person to person. However, as others have suggested, such a large- scale life- altering pandemic has certainly catalysed the effects for many. Including but certainly not limited to, factors such as solitary confinement, job losses, bereavements due to the virus, and substance abuses have all been pinpointed as contributing factors for the growing demand from the NHS for mental health services.
Whilst the NHS have ascertained that support for those who need it never disappeared, only changed and became virtual, it has been suggested that many stopped seeking professional help in line with the beginning of lockdown, for fear of outstripping the NHS of its resources for those affected physically with the virus.
Investment and education is imperative for expanding the NHS’ facilities sufficiently to care for all of those who need it, for as long as they may need it.
Partially as a response to such a growth in recognised numbers of those suffering from a rise in depressive symptoms, Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Mental Health Director, stated that addressing COVID and its impacts on the nation’s mental health is imperative in fulfilling the NHS’ Long Term Plan which seeks to “provide care for an extra two million children, young people, adults and older adults by 2023/24”. An optimistic outlook to the situation is refreshing, however some are more skeptical. A recent article from the BBC for instance argues that “a higher proportion of their (the NHS’) referrals are patients who are accessing services for the first time”. Whether this may lead to the lack of enough resources and help for all is still uncertain, but officials have warned that more help, investment and education in the area is imperative for expanding the NHS’ facilities sufficiently to care for all of those who need it, and for as long as they may need it.
With an almost doubled figure of adults reporting symptoms of depression since last year, another ramification for Britain may be the further cost of rebuilding the economy. After spiraling into an economic depression, business and trade in the coming years is essential, and businesses only work with healthy, happy employees. Whilst sick and compassionate leave is essential for maintaining worker satisfaction, an increase in depressive adults may have further effects on how quickly and efficiently boosting the economy could happen.
These inferences however have stemmed from the Office for National Statistics’ study, which made use of survey data collected through a “standard set of questions used to assess depression” and which made use of only 3500 participants, which equates to barely 0.01% of the population it seeks to represent. In addition to this, how far can a checklist get one in understanding another’s mental health? Whilst depressive symptoms can commonly be recognised as those which include a lack of motivation or a loss of interest in hobbies or relationships, it is no doubt that the pandemic will have had differing effects on everyone.
We must trust that the NHS and governmental and industrial officials will not belittle the voices of those adults who have suffered the worst through lockdown. It is also imperative that clear communication from such authoritative bodies is delivered to the public; to raise awareness and the accessibility of those resources which many seem to be overlooking.