Data seen by The Yorkshire Post shows that levels of mental distress among adults have skyrocketed during the pandemic, with younger women the demographic most acutely impacted.
Campaigners and MPs said that bosses of both public and private organisations are likely to come under increasing scrutiny as to how much support they provide their staff and to allow for more flexible working patterns as society opens up in the coming months.
As the nation prepares to mark 12 months since the first national lockdown was imposed, employment lawyer and mental health campaigner Jodie Hill told this newspaper that employers could be laid open to discrimination charges if they do not adequately support their staff when they return to work.
She said: “The way we work is going to change.
“I don’t think we will go back to the whole nine to five and strictness of routine that we had because, if we do, ultimately people will either look elsewhere for jobs or their mental health will decline.
“There is a massive worry at the moment about how we support people coming back.
“But there are a lot of lessons. We have seen the benefits of flexible working and a more human approach.”
A White Paper drawn up by Ms Hill and seen by this newspaper showed that levels of mental distress in April of last year alone was 8.1 per cent higher than seen between 2017-19.
It claims that although the most severely impacted demographics have been single parents, women and people with long term health conditions .It also showed 10 per cent of the population having suicidal thoughts at the peak of the lockdown.
Labour’s shadow mental health minister, Rosena Allin-Khan, said: “The mental health impact of Covid-19 will be felt for many years to come and it must be addressed now.
"In our workplaces, schools and communities, the Government needs to address the fact that life isn't yet back to normal and people need access to mental health support when they need it.”
The views are expressed in the same week it was revealed the UK has fallen five places to 18th on a global list ranking countries by happiness, as it grapples with the mental health ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.
Geoff Heyes, head of policy and influencing at mental health charity Mind, said people’s psychological wellbeing needed to be a key area of focus for Government when tackling the wider long-term social impacts of the pandemic and the economic recession while a senior official at trade union Unite said there should be an individual risk assessment to be done for each person and workplace.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The government has provided the largest funding increase in NHS history to expand and transform mental health services, with an additional £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24. On top of that we are giving more people the support they need through our commitment of an additional £500 million to address waiting times for mental health services.