Being isolated can have a serious negative imapct on your mental health

The lockdown has caused mass disruption across the UK, from the travel sector to the food and restaurant trade. But for many, being cooped up indoors is also having an adverse effect on their mental wellbeing.

Sian, 22, from Nuneaton, who has a long history of anxiety, depression and self-harm, explained that the isolation is knocking her back when it comes to recovery. “Before the lockdown happened, I was probably in the best period of mental health that I’ve had since suffering from mental health problems,” she said, “But this has brought on a lot more challenges.”

“I’ve been working for ten years on ways to reduce self-harm and improve my mental health, but now all the things I’ve been told to do – I can’t do.”

She believes that living alone has had led to some of her issues resurfacing.

“I have barely any social contact with anybody, it’s been about eight weeks now so that’s really hard. A lot of the time when things were bad I’d go out and see people or do something outside of the flat, but that not being an option has been a massive barrier for me.”

Online video chat services, such as Skype or Zoom, are allowing people to continue talking face to face. For Sian this hasn’t been as beneficial as she had first hoped it would be.

“It’s nice and it does help, but once that call ends you realise you’re back to that small flat you’ve been in for the last eight weeks,” she says.

“I’ve been working for ten years on ways to reduce self-harm and improve my mental health, but now all the things I’ve been told to do – I can’t do.”

Nurses are also relying on technology as they use phone calls to keep in touch with their patients. One mental health nurse said having to do her job at home was making her role less effective.

“When you talk to people over the phone, rather than visiting them in person, you don’t see the non-verbal cues when they’re communicating,” she said, “For example, I can’t see whether or not someone can maintain eye contact with me.”

For her the current situation is causing existing patients with severe psychological issues to relapse, due to the help she can provide being limited.

“We use a three-pronged approach: medication, occupation activity and talking therapy. Some people would go to groups or do voluntary work in charity shops, but they’re not able to do that now. So they’ve lost that routine, structure and sense of purpose.”

Talking therapy sessions have also been cancelled in favour of phone sessions, which does not offer the same level of treatment to those who need it.

“We’ve lost two main approaches as to how we manged people’s long-term mental health, and we are seeing a lot of relapses,” she said.

To hear both interviews in full, head over to SoundCloud and listen to our mental health podcast.

For more on how mental health services are adapting to the current climate, click here.