Warnings of post-pandemic rise in mental health conditions such as PTSD and OCD as experts call for long-term funding for support
Mental health experts say conditions such as PTSD, OCD and substance addictions will likely rise in the aftermath of the crisis, particularly among frontline health workers, those who have been shielding and people with pre-existing psychological disorders.
It comes as research from Nuffield Health revealed that young people, BAME and LGBT communities, people working in health and education sectors and working parents will be adversely affected.
One in four adults in Yorkshire & the Humber surveyed by YouGov in a recent study admitted to currently experiencing poor mental health, while almost half (48 per cent) said theirs had deteriorated since restrictions were announced in March 2020.
Geoff Heyes, Head of Health Policy and Influencing at the charity Mind, said many people were feeling deterred from accessing treatment now as they felt their problem "wasn't serious enough".
He said: "Left untreated, mental health problems can worsen, resulting in people needing more expensive and intensive treatment, placing even greater pressure on the NHS."
Lorraine McReight, a Calderdale-based counsellor and hypnotherapist who works with patients suffering from PTSD and anxiety-related illnesses, said the country was going to see a "mental health crisis across the borders" if action was not taken to fund support now.
She said: "Lots of health workers and carers will already be experiencing trauma right now, but will somehow be coping with it. But when we come out the other end they will have a lot of psychological issues to deal with. There has been some degree of this already."
Dr Pam Ramsden, an academic specialising in trauma at Bradford University, echoed this, saying that there would likely be a rise in depression and anxiety following the pandemic when the Government's furlough scheme ends and people return to jobs no longer there.
"There will definitely be a delayed response and the psychological impact on those in the healthcare sector will be profound," she said.
"I think once most of the vaccines have been administered, we will start to see a lot of nurses and doctors leaving the profession because their mental well-being is just not being looked after in some instances. They are mentally exhausted."
She added: "We have all been exposed to so many violent and traumatic images over the past year, from people dying on Covid wards to the violence which followed the US election. I think we are all a little numb to everything and when we hear another thousand people have died in one day, we just feel powerless."
Another academic warned of increased substance use during the current crisis, with supermarket alcohol sales soaring following the closure of bars and restaurants.
Dr Ian Hamilton, associate professor specialising in addictions and mental health at the University of York, said demand for depressant substances such as alcohol and cannabis was rising alongside non-medical use of sleeping drugs such as Diazepam, while use of stimulant drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine were diminishing due to the ban on social gatherings.
"I think we are already seeing the beginnings of a problem and the specialist treatment and support that is so desperately needed has been underfunded for a while," he said.
"Addictions can lead to a range of physical and psychological health problems."
He added that several surveys conducted last year showed that those with pre-existing issues surrounding alcohol had seen their dependencies worsen since the start of the pandemic.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are doing our utmost to ensure that our mental health services are there for everyone who needs them during the pandemic and beyond – for patients, the public and our NHS and social care colleagues. This includes the Every Mind Matters campaign and website which offers tools and advice to help people to look after their mental health.
“We have also announced that the NHS will receive around an additional £500 million over the next year to help address waiting times for mental health services, give more people the mental health support they need, and invest in the NHS workforce.”
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