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In brief: The mental toll of COVID, disability, and garden space

Image of facemask on a black background
Mark Konig | Unsplash

Top story Study that concludes the pandemic had “small” mental health toll receives heavy criticism

A Canadian research review of 137 studies that suggested there was a “high level of resilience” towards the COVID-19 pandemic has been highly criticised by the mental health charity Mind.

The study found that pre and post-pandemic rates of depression and anxiety were not hugely different, apart from for women and LGBTQIA+ people.

The review concludes: "At a population level, there has been a high level of resilience during Covid-19. And changes in general mental health, anxiety symptoms and depression symptoms have been minimal to small."

In response, head of Information at Mind Stephen Buckley, compares the study's findings to those of Mind and the Office for National Statistics, both of which have reported very different outcomes.

In a survey conducted by Mind in April 2021 of 12,000 people in England and Wales, around one third of respondents said that their mental health had become much worse since March 2020.

"The findings of this international research into the mental health effects of the pandemic are interesting, however they do not reflect the impact Mind witnessed in England and Wales during and after the pandemic," said Buckley.

"Mind’s local services have been facing increasing demand since the first lockdown, and during the pandemic the average complexity and length of calls to our Infoline increased significantly.

"Data from the Office for National Statistics also shows that average ratings for all measures of wellbeing still remain below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels."

Buckley also highlighted the geographical basis of the findings, noting that most of the 137 studies included in the Canadian review were from high-income European and Asian countries, "so overlook the toll taken on some less visible – but more disadvantaged – groups."

"In fact, the review notes that depression worsened overall and among women, older people, university students and people belonging to sexual or gender minorities.

"Mind will always call for an inclusive approach to mental health, which takes into account the needs of people from all backgrounds and particularly minority groups including people of colour and anyone experiencing poverty; who were hit particularly hard by the pandemic as a result of deep-rooted systemic factors."

People living with a disability have highest risk of death by suicide

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics suggest that people living with a disability have the highest rate of suicide deaths when compared with other groups.

Specifically, it found that per 100,000 people, 48 men and 19 women living with a disability would have died from suicide, compared with 16 men and 5 women without a disability.

This is the first time the ONS has used 2011 Census and death registration data to estimate rates of suicide in England and Wales, with its statisticians concluding that groups with disabilities have the most significant risk.

Other at-risk groups include people who have never worked or were unemployed for an extended period and single or never married individuals.

Ms Hadi, who lives with a visual impairment, told the BBC: "For disabled people, a lot of us do find ourselves living alone and a lot of us are unemployed. We know that when you cannot make ends meet, it really does put a pressure on you. It adds to your anxiety and mental health issues."

Garden space protected mental health during the pandemic – study

A survey of 2084 Australians living in urban areas has found that frequent garden space was associated with lower stress during the pandemic.

Interestingly, the data suggested that longer durations of visits were actually associated with higher levels of stress, with the researchers suggesting that this is because people seek the closest nature spaces available to regulate emotion during times of stress.

Both correlations highlight the importance of nature in helping with stress and how crucial garden space is for people living in urban areas.

Praise for mental health services helping people live with long COVID

The Post Covid Syndrome Service (PCSS) run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) has been praised by patients and staff for helping people with the mental and physical struggles of living with Long Covid.

The PCSS consists of a multi-disciplinary team working with Long Covid patients to manage their ongoing symptoms and see what changes could be made to improve their quality of life.

Fatima Karim, a Psychological Therapist, said:

"Having Long Covid has had a tremendous impact on people's lives in many different ways and forms.

"It's not just anxiety or worry they may be experiencing. For some people, this have been a very traumatic experience.

"People have had worries around finances; they've lost their jobs; their relationships have been affected, their ability to socialise.

"We're helping them understand these symptoms are manageable and aiding that recovery process."

Channel Islands: Teenage girls' mental health significantly worse than boys'

Reports published in Jersey and Guernsey have found that girls are experiencing significantly worse mental health than their male counterparts, with girls in years 10 to 12 having the worst mental health of all year groups.

The most notable stats were:

  • 33% of girls in year 12 living in Jersey scored “low” for happiness.

  • 14% of girls in year 10 living in Guernsey thought their school took bullying seriously.

Kimberly Lappin, a teacher living in Jersey, said:

"There's also more pressure. When I was doing my GCSEs I think I did about 14 exams. They're doing close to 25/30 exams now.”

"So I think there's more pressure there, because there's more people on the planet, there's more competition to get jobs."

Kelly Martins, a year 11 student, also gave her opinion:

"I think it's like a lot of internet influence, and like comparing ourselves like girls especially, comparing ourselves to other girls and the differences we have and feeling insecure."


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