Covid 19, the Lancet and mental health

Leading experts have researched and published their findings in The Lancet 2020* stating, “The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is having a profound effect on all aspects of society, including mental health and physical health.”

This view is supported by two online surveys, run by the Academy of Medical Sciences and mental health charity Team MQ. 

Many of those surveyed had worries about the effects of social isolation and concern regarding the overall uncertainty. There has been a rise in anxiety and stress. The paper says there is a risk that the numbers of people with depression and those self-harming or taking their own lives is likely to increase. 

During the Sars epidemic of 2003, for example, there was a 30% increase in suicide in the over-65s, the paper says. Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health organisation Mind, suggested that the longer people went without talking therapy and support, the more unwell they would become.

"The ultimate consequence of this is a rise in self-harm and suicides."

So, who are the most vulnerable groups?

The research paper lists several groups including:

  • children, young people and families in stressed lockdown households 
  • older adults and those with underlying health issues, who feel isolated, lonely and may be bereaved
  • people with existing emotional-health issues
  • front-line healthcare workers who have fears of contamination and are also work stressed

I believe that society in general might experience increased psychological health problems. 

“The four big emotional disrupters are: change, loss, time and space (headspace). Presently, we as a population are struggling with change, loss, time issues and our heads being full of uncertainty and concern. ”

There are some things we cannot change in this Covid situation, but we can modify how we react psychologically to these troubled times. 

At Emotionalskills my colleagues and I are using Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and FaceTime to help people who are emotionally troubled. We have adapted and this is working well and many clients are feeling reassured and less stressed and anxious. 

There are lots of things that you can do:

  • stay connected online with friends and family
  • keep busy with hobbies, crafts, reading, films and home improvements
  • physical activity, such as walking, running and online exercise classes
  • stay calm, thanks to mindfulness, meditation or pets
  • limit information intake - manage access to news and social media
  • maintain routine by having a daily plan

Talking to a professional listener, a therapist and receiving counselling... placing anxiety rationally and dispelling imagined worries can help most people who are stressed in these troubled times. 

By Shane Lutkin, Lead Psychotherapist, Emotionalskills 

*Lancet Psychiatry, April 15, 2020. Research team: Emily A Holmes, Rory C O’Connor, V Hugh Perry, Irene Tracey, Simon Wessely, Louise Arseneault, Clive Ballard, Helen Christensen, Roxane Cohen Silver, Ian Everall, Tamsin Ford, Ann John, Thomas Kabir, Kate King, Ira Madan, Susan Michie, Andrew K Przybylski, Roz Shafran, Angela Sweeney, Carol M Worthman, Lucy Yardley, Katherine Cowan, Claire Cope, Matthew Hotopf, Ed Bullmore

Sign up to our newsletter

Keep up to date with news and tips for managing emotional tension and guidance on ways to lead a fulfilling life.
View our latest newsletter here.