UK Coronavirus messaging with the slogan: stay safe, stay home, save lives.

With the UK Government’s decision to begin to move us out of lockdown, by easing some restrictions, there has been an outcry about the affects of lockdown on our mental health. I’d like to explore with you what this mean for us on a personal level.

I think it’s worth starting with some simple premises:

Our society pre-lockdown was not a mental health eutopia. People beforehand suffered with mental health issues, mental health and wellbeing were not taken seriously, stigma caused people to not seek help, and NHS services struggled with those who did reach out.

Work based Employee Assistance Programs, counselling and CBT are underfunded and people often get a set number of 6-12 sessions, which is often not long enough (I typically work with clients for around a year). Despite the fact that the biggest predictor of a good outcome in therapy being how well you get on with your therapist, most people accessing these services have no choice in who they see.

We know from research and anecdotal evidence that people experiencing the same event will have vastly differing feelings, memories and responses to those events. Check out this selection of articles from the BBC about those who are struggling and thriving in lockdown.

So what do these premises mean?

Well, we all came into lockdown from a different starting point, some of us were mentally healthy, some of us had mental health issues, some of us didn’t consider our mental health and wellbeing at all. We have all come from different socio-economic backgrounds which have profoundly affected our experience of lockdown, whether you were un-employed, disabled, unable to work, shielding, an essential or keyworker, able to work from home, furloughed or still attending your place of work. Looking after children or vulnerable family members and neighbours also has had an effect on what lockdown has felt and looked like for each of us.

A picture of a street sign saying lockdown, to show we are leaving lockdown in the UK
Leaving Lockdown

Some of us have been directly affected by being unwell with Covid-19, or losing a friend or family member to it. You may have also experienced anxiety or worry over contracting it, or a feeling of unreality about it or even ‘it won’t happen to me’. Some of us may have put aside our health concerns to participape in The Black Lives Matter protests, others may have found other ways to support the movement through petitions, social media and Blackout Tuesday.

The point is whether you worry we are moving out of lockdown too fast, can’t wait for the world to reopen or are somewhat on the fence. Whether you have had a big revelation about your life during lockdown or you are finding your depression and/or anxiety is worse. What I want you to know is your experience is valued and valid.

There is no right answer or way to feel, and anyone who tells you there is is lying. What I would say is that if you are feeling low, and your mental health has suffered, or you have been unable to access your usual sources of support, REACH OUT. Talk to someone, a friend, a therapist, DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE.

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