The coronavirus has affected the lives of millions of people across the world, including their mental health. At MQ, we surveyed over 3,000 people in the UK to find out what was worrying them, and how they were coping. You can read the full report here (PDF).
Read on to find out what people are most concerned about, and get six helpful tips that you can use to look after your mental health during this time.
What mental health issues were people most worried about?
I suffer from anxiety and have suffered from depression. The current situation is beginning to feel overwhelming which reminds me of how I felt during the worst of my last episode of depression. It’s beginning to impact my working life as this fear becomes all consuming.
Anxiety was an issue that came up over and over again, along with isolation, mental health issues worsening, being able to access mental health support, and families and relationships.
What strategies are helping people to manage their mental health during the coronavirus lockdown?
We wanted to know if there's anything that people are currently doing that is helping their mental health. Most people who responded mentioned several different ideas and techniques. It's worth trying lots of different things to see what works for you.
Here are the top six strategies mentioned in the survey, that you can use to help your mental health during the lockdown.
- "The ability to speak with friends and others. I need desperately to remain sane and in contact with others."
- "Keeping in touch with friends and family on Whatsapp, FB messenger. Knowing I am not alone."
People are using the telephone, Whatsapp, and video conferencing services to stay in touch with friends and family. One person said they were ringing their 2-year-old granddaughter every day and telling stories over the phone, while some people described playing online games to stay connected.
- "Joining a virtual choir, online exercise class, Facetime with grandchildren
- "Adult colouring books, and more recently knitting, used as a distraction" technique because I can’t walk it off or go to family for support."
- "Being mostly confined indoors, I’ve used the extra time to attend to the many small but postponed jobs around the house. I’ve even started giving my kitchen cupboards a thorough clean."
People are turning to a huge range of activities to keep busy during the lockdown. Quite a few people mentioned music as a distraction technique, as well as crafts, cooking, online creative events such as virtual choirs and museum tours, and attending to DIY and jobs around the house.
- "Trying to stay focused and active. I suffer from treatment-resistant schizophrenia and normally I would cope by playing guitar with others, going to the gym and things like acupuncture and cranial osteopathy as I suffer from back pain as well. None of those things are available to me now. I used to see my parents once a week also and friends now and again. Now, I’ve bought an exercise bike and dumbbells to try and replace the gym, but it is going to a difficult struggle to get through this, remain calm and sane."
- "I’m bipolar and fitness is vital, I’m a PT too and my clients being isolated and sedentary is very worrying."
- "Being able to go out for a walk once a day is a life-saver for me - in that it is one of my main strategies for managing my anxiety and depression."
Research has shown that our physical and mental health are closely linked, and this came out strongly in our survey. Many people were concerned about the disruption of their usual fitness strategies for managing their mental health, but some have found workarounds. This could be anything from strenuous home workouts to a gentle walk outside once a day.
- "I’ve started to pray every night and use an app of relaxation and meditative exercises that don’t always help but it’s something."
- "My dogs are great stress reducers."
- "Meditating in the morning. I use the app Headspace because as a teacher I get a year for free, which is also helping me wind down to sleep easier."
Prayer, meditation, mindfulness and pets were some of the calming things mentioned by our survey respondents. Those who are religious are finding their faith helpful at this time. Some people mentioned finding comfort from knowing everyone is going through the same thing. Dogs were also mentioned frequently as a source of comfort and calm.
Managing information and news intake
- "Only listening to the news bulletin once a day. Turning off social media. Spending time in my garden."
- "I’m finding it very challenging to read Twitter or look at the news. I don’t want my family to die. I don’t want to know the numbers of people dying every day - people are just reduced to statistics rather than real people with families and friends. It’s all very triggering and concerning"
- "I came off Facebook as it was overwhelmingly negative and panic mongering. It made me so anxious. Instagram seems a little more positive and focusing on the good in the world which reminds you to be grateful for things and kind people."
There’s so much news at the moment, and several people described avoiding the news and other media, including social media. They suggested that some coverage and commentary was causing them to panic and feel anxious. Some people are limiting themselves to one news update a day or filtering the news sources to avoid unreliable coverage and scaremongering.
Maintaining a routine
- "Try to keep my daily rhythms work/sleep/food intake and take as much sun as I can."
- "My colleagues from work are contacting me regularly."
- "As a key worker I’m still at work so life has some normality."
- "Weekly calls from my care coordinator at the mental health team."
Finally, the importance of a daily routine came out strongly from our survey. Many people are still working and found that helpful in continuing their usual daily routine, although with some differences. Those who are not currently working also spoke about the importance of planning their day and having structure. Therapy, anti-depressants, and care and support from others were mentioned too.
What’s next for mental health during this pandemic?
People who only just manage their mental health in usual circumstances - how will they cope with additional stress of isolation?
Mental health needs to be seen as an urgent priority for research and funding at this time. Our survey shows that the UK lockdown is massively affecting people’s mental health.
We’ve put together a group of experts who have come up with a roadmap that the government can take forward to protect the mental health of everyone in the UK. Read more here.
We’re also gathering together vetted online research studies into mental health - find out more and take part in an online study here.
Last updated: 30 April 2020