Loneliness set to significantly rise during lockdown

By Lucy Jones

A Dudley charity has warned that the cases of mental health problems is set to rise during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Sandra Vaughan, Chief Executive of Dudley Mind has said: “The number of calls we have received regarding suicide have risen significantly. We are obviously servery restricted to what services we can offer due to face to face restrictions. It will get to a point where people’s mental health issues will get out of control.

One of the problems is that people with mental health issues rely on a routine so if the individual is on furlough, they will lack a focus. The pressure of feeling anxious and depressed about the virus is too much and people are getting terrified.”

Her warning coincides with the Office of National Statistics publication of research taken before the COVID-19 outbreak about social isolation and loneliness.

The surveys were carried at a UK level by the ‘Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study’. According to the research, people who were equality act disabled* were most likely to report feeling lonely. They were also less likely to feel like they have someone there for them if they needed help.

Lorraine Fury, 59 from Dudley is currently isolating on her own with her dog Washington, and suffers from long-lasting mental health issues. She has also recently had a hip replacement, so falls under the category of equality act disabled.

She said: “I think having a mental health issue severely increases the risk of loneliness. A lot of people who suffer with their mental health will hide away from social interaction and therefore get into a downward spiral with it. The more you hide away from society, the lonelier you become and then this problem is created. “

14.1% of the Equality Act disabled reported feeling lonely often/always, with only 58.8% of them agreeing they had someone there for them if they needed help.

Lorraine added: “The percentage of people experiencing loneliness is sure to rise during this period of social isolation because either their mental health or physical impairment will prevent from doing things to keep busy.

“I find the best way to combat my depression is to keep busy, but my recently hip operation has in some ways preventing me from doing this. I cannot go out for an hour walk each day with my dog as I would usually because I cannot walk long distances. It has also prevented me from gardening and doing home exercises. I have had to adapt my daily routine and fill it with things I can do and enjoy such as card marking and reading.

“In this current climate I do fear that no one will be there for me if I did catch coronavirus because I have no immediate family living near me and Washington would have to be rehomed. It is a very scary time for everyone.”

Mind, the national charity for mental health, advises on its website to stay connected people, to keep active, find ways to relax and be creative, get as much sunlight and fresh air as possible and keep your mind stimulated. Tips on fighting loneliness can be found here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/#collapsececba

Elderly people are more comfortable with their neighbours

On the other end of the spectrum, those aged over 65 were most comfortable with neighbours collecting their shopping for them and were more likely than the general population to regularly talk to their neighbours.

However, 40% of individuals who are aged 65 and over said in the survey that they were very comfortable with their neighbours collecting a few shopping essentials. People aged 70 and over were also more likely than the general population to regularly stop and talk to their neighbours, with 78% agreeing they have a regular conversation with their neighbours. John Southall is 78 years old and is also isolating on his own. His neighbours have been doing the majority of his shopping, with whom he regularly speaks to.

He said: “Before the outbreak of COVID-19 I would always do my food shopping myself. But if I had forgotten an essential or if my neighbour was doing a big food shop they would always ask if I needed anything.

“I have always had a very good relationship with my neighbours, it is a very friendly street. I have lived on the street most of life so I know the majority of people who live here.

“Sarah, my next-door neighbour has been doing my food shopping and every day she will ask if I need anything. Everyone on the street has offered to help me in this time, so even though it is an awful time it really does show you the sense of community.

“It is strange not being able to have real interactions with anyone but my family constantly check up on me and I have daily telephone calls with at least one friend or family member.”

* In Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study, a “self-defined disability” has been defined Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study using the variable, health. This question asks: “Do you have any long-standing physical or mental impairment, illness or disability? By ‘long-standing’ I mean anything that has troubled you over a period of at least 12 months or that is likely to trouble you over a period of at least 12 months.”