Is 2021 the worst year for mental health?

After being in lockdown for the majority of a year, what effect has this had on our mental-wellbeing?

Written by: Halima K

There has been a variety of factors affecting our mental health during the lockdown. I don’t feel like I need to mention them all, as I’m sure you already know. So instead, I’d like to start by saying that I hope you’re all doing well, and brighter days are on the way.

Now many of us have lost our jobs and some of us have been furloughed. I know that I’ve been both, lucky me.

For anyone who is not sure what it is to be “furloughed”, this time last year when the pandemic came into full swing, the government created a Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to support employers who cannot maintain their current workforce. This allowed employers to “furlough” employees, meaning that HMRC would cover 80% of the wages (up to a total of £2,500 per month) of employees who are not working but are “furloughed”, to keep them from being dismissed.

In total, 8.7 million people have been furloughed. I am not happy about this situation but for some reason find comfort in knowing that I am not alone and that we are all tackling this together.

Being furloughed and having heavily-reduced social contact for almost a year has taken a toll on all of us. According to recent data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), 2021 has set a new record. In terms of mental health, this January was the worst.

I’m far from surprised as anxiety continues to grow with whether or not the easing of social distancing regulations will be successful, or if we’ll just fall into another national lockdown? Even now, it’s too soon to tell.

But what has been affecting our mental health?

The honest answer is everything. For the past year our world as we once knew it has been turned upside down and we are being forced to adapt to drastic changes at an extremely fast pace.

Photo credit: Paula Danielse/Getty Images

Here are just some factors:

Rising uncertainty about job security- Westfield health states 64% are worried, rising to 68% amongst furloughed parents. These concerns are furthered by worries about the economy, with 61% expecting it to get worse. As a University student, I am definitely worried about the job market and whether I’ll be able to find a graduate job next year considering our current situation.

Lack of routine while at home — Just 5% would like to still be furloughed, compared to 66% who’d like to be back in the office and 15% who’d like to be working from home.

The biggest drivers for returning to work were the feeling of getting back to normal (77%), the financial boost (56%), and seeing colleagues again (53%).

Added anxiety about health- Many think it’s not currently safe to return (70%) and 65% are worried about their personal safety — both the highest amongst all groups surveyed.

Parents juggling childcare and work — From watching my aunt struggle to take of her two children and balance work at the same time as teaching them, I know for a fact parents haven’t had an easy time throughout this lockdown.

But, what has twitter been saying?

Bernie has been very firm with her opinion stating that there should never have been a lockdown and freedom should not have been taken away:

Photo credit: @berniespofforth/Twitter

Jemma Palmer, model and professional wrestler lists the impacts of what lockdown has had on the population. We have all felt one of these during the lockdown, I personally have.

Photo credit: @Jemmapalmer/Twitter

However, although mental health has been impacted negatively by lockdown and the pandemic as a whole, I am grateful to be alive. I am in no way trying to imply that this hasn’t been, and continues to be, an extremely difficult time for all of us. But I am happy knowing that we still have time to better our mental well-being, despite how hard that may be.

I’d like to end by reminding everyone to be kind to others, and most importantly, yourself.

It hasn’t been easy and you’re doing great.

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Below are some numbers that you can call if you feel that you or people that you know need mental health support:

1. CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight). Website: www.thecalmzone.net

2. Mind. Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393(Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm). Website: www.mind.org.uk

3. Samaritans. Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline). Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

4. Young Minds. Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals. Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm). Website: www.youngminds.org.uk

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