No one has been unburdened by the mental health difficulties that have been aggravated, or provoked, by COVID-19. Notwithstanding the physical repercussions of the virus, COVID-19 has affected everyone, not just those suffering from the virus.
Research conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) on the first two months of lockdown indicated that, across the UK, mental health had deteriorated by 8.1%, and was disproportionately affecting young adults and women (groups with characteristically lower levels of mental health prior to the outbreak). The reasons for this are manifold: employment insecurity, the impact of the virus on personal income, feelings of loneliness as a consequence of isolation, managing work and household responsibilities, and a host of other difficulties triggered by this exceptional and uncertain time.
When in March of last year I contacted ABS, having had a particularly bleak and anxious week, I was overwhelmed to find that I was not only eligible for mental health support, but the staff on the other end of the line encouraged me by letting me know that I was not alone. Within a week or so I began free Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), provided by Anxiety UK and financed by ABS. The support delivered by my therapist enabled me to begin unpacking prompts for my anxiety, and crucially equipped me with the vocabulary to explain my feelings and actions to others. The confidence to vocalise my experience of anxiety, particularly the tedious minutiae of it (bizarrely for a period it manifested itself when I waited for and boarded trains) has been liberating. The therapy challenged internalised feelings of inadequacy that I felt for seeking support. A friend of mine summarised this brilliantly when they said, “why wait until you’re at your worst before asking for help?”