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The global pandemic and the impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing

According to a recent scientific brief released in March 2022 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the global pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the ‘global prevalence of anxiety and depression’. And of those countries surveyed, 90% of them have added mental health and psychosocial support to their response plans – although the briefing states there are still ‘major gaps and concerns’.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General explains: “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”

So, what could be the explanation for this huge increase?

The WHO briefing highlights that one major factor is due to social isolation that people faced during COVID-19, as people were unable to work, or see loved ones. This then led to a lack of emotional support and community engagement.

But this increase in anxiety and depression was also influenced by other factors, and the WHO briefing cites loneliness; a fear of infection; suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones; grief after bereavement and financial worries as other contributory reasons.

Loneliness; the connection to mental health and anxiety

Most of us will have felt lonely or will feel lonely at some point in our lives and, according to Mind, feeling lonely is commonly ‘when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met’.

Meaning people can live alone with little contact quite happily, while others may have many different social relationships but still feel lonely. And although loneliness is not technically a mental health problem, it can have a negative impact on you.

Mind also highlights research which has found that loneliness can increase the risk of specific mental health problems, such depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and an increase in stress.

Here are some causes of loneliness, as outlined by Mind

These can vary from person to person, but many life events can trigger feelings of loneliness:

  • Bereavement
  • Relationship break-ups
  • Retiring or losing social contact at work
  • Changing jobs and feeling isolated from your colleagues
  • Starting university
  • Moving to a new area away from friends and family

Mind also highlights how some living circumstances can also affect particular groups, making them more vulnerable to feelings of loneliness, for example:

  • If someone does not have friends or family, or they are estranged from family
  • Single parents or carers
  • People who belong to minority groups or live in areas where they have no support from others from a similar background
  • Those who have mobility problems or have a shortage of money
  • People with disabilities or long-term health problems, including mental health
  • Those who experience discrimination or stigma because of gender, race or sexual orientation
  • If they have experienced sexual or physical abuse

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 – theme: Loneliness

Mental Health Awareness Week was started by The Mental Health Foundation 21 years ago and is now one of the largest awareness weeks in the UK and worldwide. This year the annual event is taking place from Monday 9 May to Sunday 15 May.

Each year the week focuses on a specific theme, and this year it is ‘Loneliness’ with the aim to raise awareness of how loneliness impacts people in the UK, ways in which people can address loneliness and also how reducing loneliness can contribute to a ‘mentally healthy society’.

And it is no surprise that loneliness is this year’s theme, given the impact the global pandemic has had on our lives, in one way or another. However, we can all play a part in helping tackle this growing epidemic through ways such as creating a sense of community or enabling people to be their authentic selves in the workplace.

At ILX Group, we recognise the importance of supporting our employees and the people around us – our customers, clients, their families, friends, and neighbours.

Which is why we are running a webinar ‘Understanding and overcoming Anxiety and Loneliness’ on Thursday 9 June 2022 from 12pm to 1pm (BST). It will be a 1-hour session focusing on aspects such as the triggers of anxiety and loneliness, the science underpinning them, and practical things to do if you or others are suffering from them. Register today.

Read the rest in our series of blogs:

Don’t Lose Hope: a free and affordable professional counselling service for all members of the community

How ILX Group is raising awareness and supporting employees