‘Lockdown’ not good for our emotional wellbeing

Over 150 people in Camden have been in touch to share their views on Covid-19 in the last 3 weeks. Residents have shared views about changes to the NHS and the impact the pandemic is having on health and wellbeing.

Already, three weeks into our latest listening project, a striking theme has clearly emerged.

Many of the residents we have heard from are more stressed, anxious, isolated or depressed as a result of Covid-19.

“It has made me anxious going into hospital.”

“I am scared emotionally, physically and mentally as I feel going [to the] Hospital or GP more likely to catch coronavirus.”

Some of our community have experienced terrible loss and suffering as a direct result of Covid-19. However, as people have been telling us, the impact of the disease reaches much further.

The majority of respondents reported a detrimental impact on their health and well-being. With nearly all of this attributed not to Covid-19 itself, but to indirect factors, related to the disease.

When commenting about this impact, around half mentioned either ‘stress’, ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’ or ‘mental health.’ To those responding to our survey, I want to say, you are not alone! It appears that many others may be having similar experiences to you.

However, there are few universal truths, and none to be found when talking to people about their views on health and care services. And so, there are positive stories too. I have seen first-hand how the purpose and kindness present in Camden’s response to the Covid-19 crisis can have a positive impact on mental health.

Whilst we recognise the need to control the spread of Covid-19 has been real, the message from people in Camden to us is very clear. Lockdown is not good for our emotional wellbeing.

Students have been confined to small living spaces, key worker parents are juggling the demands of work and childcare, whilst many families are anxious about distant relatives.

“Working from 7am till 8pm at night… looking after children… I tripped and fell chasing children.”

“Finding it very challenging to cope with a toddler at home while working. Also we live in a flat and with the parks packed it’s been hard and stressful to even get some time outside.”

“My mental health is really suffering because I have to stay in my tiny (approx. 6ft by 12ft) room in student accommodation for 20+ hours a day – it’s basically solitary confinement. I’m having trouble focusing on my studies and I’m worried about my rent and what happens if lockdown doesn’t end before my contract runs out.”

In this context it was troubling to hear reports earlier this month, in a national survey, that nearly a quarter of people had been unable to access mental health services.

It is understandable that day to day service delivery has been disrupted in such an unprecedented situation. But as the peak of the pandemic seems to have passed in London, going forward, our endeavours in restoring services will need to match the urgency of the response to the initial crisis. This must happen to avoid storing up problems for the future.

“… my depression has come back in full swing and I have put on over a stone from overeating and drinking more alcohol… I put this down to me struggling with the additional cleaning, cooking and lack of childcare, whilst trying to juggle work, accepting loss of finances and the new reality of a hardened future. I also miss my family terribly.”

“Exacerbated the Anxiety and depression I already have.”

We will be working with the Public Health Team at Camden Council in the coming weeks to continue listening to you. We want to understand whether you are getting access to the services you need, and whether they are meeting your needs. Our findings are analysed weekly and shared with senior leaders in the NHS and Camden Council.

The impact of the pandemic is creating distress and upheaval for many people in Camden in many different ways. One respondent told us about losing a job for the first time in their career.

“I find myself unemployed for the first time in my life … I miss the face to face exchange with other adults and having some time without my child. Also being dependant on handouts … is not a great feeling.”

The changes we have all faced may prompt you to feel the need to start a conversation about your mental health with a friend, GP, or other trusted person. Please, do not be afraid, go for it! You may be pleasantly surprised about how it makes you feel and the variety of help that is on offer.

Most of us will ably manage the additional stressors created by ‘Lockdown’, for however long it remains necessary. But for those that need some additional support, there are some fantastic resources available which we have collated on our website. You can also access help for stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia from iCope.

Stay safe, keep well, and start a conversation about mental health with someone you trust.