Mental Health in the UK: COVID19’s impact on Young People

Despite deteriorating mental health facilities in the UK, community participation is what is keeping us strong says Ruberta Bisson

The chronic under funding of the mental health system in the UK has always severely affected young people’s well-being. The pandemic and lockdown has only exposed these problems by making barriers in access to mental health support more obvious. 

Online mental health services in the UK

As soon as we went into lockdown, I, too, was compelled to continue therapy over the telephone. While I was able to cope for a couple of weeks that way, my responsibilities as a young adult carer soon became too stressful. One of my therapists was able to move me to a face-to-face waiting list. The other was not able to see me in person at all. In the moment, I felt unmoored and uncertain, yet I knew that many people were experiencing much worse.

Throughout the pandemic, physical health facilities were running but mental health ones were closed. Even towards the end of the lockdown, the government had made plans for reopening gyms and schools, but no such provisions were made for mental health services. 

Reforming the system

The collective trauma we experienced during the pandemic made mental health cases rise even further during the lockdown. This meant that mental health services were being further inundated with new cases and deteriorations. This has, however,  gone unacknowledged. Mental health must be a priority. It is in need of funding and reform. As with mental health issues themselves, ignoring this problem will not make it go away. The performative celebration of World Mental Health Day is just not enough. 

Are self-help apps enough? 

A consequence of the blockage of mental health facilities was the move towards self-help apps. This is as much a result of life slowing down and people having more time to reflect and work on themselves as it is a reflection of the turbulent times. Despite this being a clear indication of people engaging with their mental health and working on building resilience, it does make me worry for those who are not computer literate. How would they get the support they need? Why should mental health support be robbed from those without access to basic technology and infrastructure and what can be done about it?

The impact of community participation 

Despite increasing mental health cases and temporary barriers in accessing support, increase in community participation and care work is helping individuals and groups cope better with the rising levels of uncertainty.

On 30th July, a RAMP study newsletter revealed that, while mental health was taking a hit in most cases (around 70% of the participants reported an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety), many people were reporting acts of random kindness. These included joining mutual aid groups, donating to key organisations and helping neighbours and relatives in need. Volunteering is well known to be of great benefit to the wellbeing of both the giving and receiving parties, so this was certainly encouraging news.

This kind of altruism is indicative of a more inclusive and caring society post-pandemic, which would be most welcome, especially if the government’s policies became more caring too.

People power and social support

If we are to recover from the pandemic well, it will be important that everyone feels that they can rely on someone. That there is someone to turn to when things go awry. While the government has an overarching responsibility to perform this role, it is far more likely that those in need will source help locally. This is clearly only workable if the relevant  organisations exist and function well. On a purely practical level, this means having people-power (members, volunteers, employees) and money.

Given that the absence of adequate support has such devastating and far-reaching consequences, it is critical that we figure out how to ensure that services can continue. This may mean giving your time or money to such causes if you’re able. If not, you could help by reducing their case-load. How? Check in on your friends, relatives and neighbours. This could prevent them needing that help, or at least enable them to cope until they get it. 

Reaching out is not just for the pandemic

Situations can easily become crises if not addressed quickly. We’ve seen this theory play out in the handling of the pandemic globally. There are also many cases of people struggling but not receiving help quickly enough. It is clear that we must all do our bit to reach out to anyone who may be in need. As always, we can all do our bit and it’ll add up.


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Mental Health in the UK: COVID19’s impact on Young People

by Ruberta Bisson Reading time: 3 min