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‘I just didn’t see the fun in life anymore’: What another lockdown could mean for our mental health

Jon Neal, Chief Executive of Suffolk Mind Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jon Neal, Chief Executive of Suffolk Mind Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

A young volunteer has told how she “didn’t see joy anymore” during the first national lockdown amid concerns another one could be just around the corner.

Abi, a volunteer at Suffolk Mind, has told how lockdown was a Abi, a volunteer at Suffolk Mind, has told how lockdown was a "complete struggle" for her Picture: SUFFOLK MIND

Abi, who works for the mental health charity Suffolk Mind, said she had never needed to seek help before but admits lockdown was a “complete struggle” - particularly as she cannot work due to a life-limiting disability.

Her remarks come as mental health chiefs warn of the toll another lockdown could take on people’s wellbeing.

Government officials have stressed plans being drawn up to impose more national restrictions - as soon as next week - stop short of a full lockdown.

MORE: Opinion – Don’t lockdown Suffolk again

A recent survey by Suffolk Mind of more than 1,600 people found the number of people stressed and at risk of slipping into mental ill health almost doubled from mid-March to June.

Jon Neal, the chief executive of Suffolk Mind Picture: GREGG BROWNJon Neal, the chief executive of Suffolk Mind Picture: GREGG BROWN

The research also showed that 45% of people were not meeting the need for community or feeling connected to a group, 46% did not feel appreciated and valued while 39% didn’t feel as if they had control and autonomy over their lives.

For Abi, not having anything to do and a massive shift in routine left her struggling and in need of support.

“I struggle with the whole idea that there is something out there that can harm you, it panics me,” she said.

“I had nice things booked like holidays and events and they’ve been cancelled. I just don’t see the fun in life anymore, I don’t see joy; I feel as if I’m just existing in a world that is not very nice.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has been urged not to force Suffolk and north Essex back into lockdown Picture: PAPrime minister Boris Johnson has been urged not to force Suffolk and north Essex back into lockdown Picture: PA

“I am now looking to access some help through Suffolk Mind. I just need someone to talk to and discuss my worries.”

MORE: Businesses back our call to ‘Leave Suffolk out of it’

Suffolk Mind’s research revealed that during lockdown nearly half of people in Suffolk (46.3%) were not meeting their emotional needs on average, and were therefore liable to stress and potential mental health issues.

This was compared to the year before lockdown, when it was one in four people (23.2%).

Jon Neal, chief executive, warned that people will have to feel as safe as possible and actually have an end in sight, should another full lockdown occur under new Government proposals.

Dr Sarah Maxwell, children and young people's clinical director at NSFT 
Picture: ARCHANTDr Sarah Maxwell, children and young people's clinical director at NSFT Picture: ARCHANT

“Nearly half of people in Suffolk struggled during the first lockdown and they could be knocking on the door of mental health services any day now looking to access support,” he said.

“This is what we as a system need to take into account if we were to go into any kind of lockdown again. Communication needs to be clear about what it actually means, what the level of risk is, what we can and can’t do, and when the measures might end.

“If we go into another lockdown, we’re going to have more people worried about their jobs, and more business owners worried about their companies, and that’s not going to help with people feeling secure and in control.

He added: “Obviously, the most important thing is tackling the virus, because it is a deadly disease. There are lots of good physical health reasons to bring in more restrictions, but there are also lots of good mental health reasons to do that only if it’s absolutely necessary.”

Second lockdown ‘cannot see repeat of issues from first time around’

A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said a fresh national lockdown could not see a repeat of issues from the first time around, which saw hundreds of young people discharged from waiting lists in Norfolk and Suffolk and reports of non-existent face-to-face support.

They said: “If there is another lockdown coming, it cannot be used as an excuse for reducing already inadequate mental health services yet again. It wasn’t simply that mental health services were delivered remotely rather than face-to-face: many people stopped receiving any help at all.”

Last month, a council scrutiny meeting saw Dr Sarah Maxwell, clinical director of children and young people’s services at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, admit the decision to discharge 300 young people from its services was a “mistake”.

MORE: Mental health trust admits discharge of 300 young people from waiting list was ‘decision’

The trust apologised at the time, saying the letters “should not have been sent”, but blamed “human error” before admitting several weeks later that a “decision had been taken”.

Dr Maxwell said: “It wasn’t a straightforward clerical error. It was in part a decision based on what we were having to plan for in terms of the pandemic.

“At the outset of the pandemic, we knew we had a lot of young people on our services. We were expecting to lose 50% of our staff, due to being unwell or being redeployed.

“We were acutely aware we were going to have a lot of young people with nothing offered to them.”

If you are struggling, visit the Suffolk Wellbeing Service’s website to find advice or book an appointment.

Call 03001116000 if you are looking for support.


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