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Lockdown - not again!

by Kaarina Vanderkamp about a year ago in mental health
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What about Mental Health?

Lockdown & Mental Health

Lockdown – not again!

What about Mental Health?

I have been a mental health nurse for over 30 years. I have had some breaks in service and for most of my life, as a nurse, I worked in Addiction Services. That was my chosen specialty. More recently and throughout the big C lockdowns, I have been working in busy community mental health teams.

As you can imagine, during lockdown, we saw an increase of mental health problems and many people were very isolated and alone. With the ensuing lockdown, many people became depressed, even people who had not suffered from mental health issues previously.

Loneliness

This has been very hard on everyone but I think that if you do not have family nearby or access to computers and smart phones then you have very little available to you, to keep in touch with loved ones and friends.

I think this is something that people forget in these times. So many of us now have access to computers and smart phones, it is the norm. For many people who have mental health issues and those on a very low income or benefits, this may not be something they can afford to have. For such people, these things are a luxury not a necessity.

Previous to the lockdown, people could use the libraries to access computers but now of course, that route is lost to them. There is of course, the added issue that sometimes people, who are both lonely and isolated, can lose confidence and motivation to go out and so they stay inside, alone. This can lead to anxiety and panic attacks or even paranoia, if they do have to go out e.g. to the near shop. This is an awful situation to find yourself in.

Isolated

Many of our patients live in bedsits, single rooms with shared kitchens and are on the totally minute amounts of benefit, known as universal credit. I have known people to be on just over £200 a month if single, plus their housing benefit. This £200 has to pay your gas/electric in some cases, as well as council tax – it is a reduced amount but if you do the maths, there is not much left for food. If you do have a smart phone, even if it is only £10 a month, every penny counts. If you need clothes or your smart phone breaks, you have no hope, as you wouldn’t be able to afford to replace it.

I am very happy to say that during this lockdown, mental health staff, have continued to see patients face to face – with PPE of course. This makes such a difference to people. Quite early on, many of us tried doing phone calls but this is not the same as human contact. Over a few weeks, some patients started to deteriorate mentally. It is better to see patients face to face with precautions, because over the phone you lose a lot of what you can pick up from facial expressions and body language.

I am very proud of the mental health services where I have worked because of this. Mental health patients particularly, need human contact. Sometimes, patients don’t have family members that live nearby or they only see them once a week and some have no one at all. Very often, they are on a low income and some live in appalling conditions. This may be because they are depressed and not looking after the self-care but sometimes this is because of the places they have to live in.

Some patients sit alone, day in and day out, lockdown or no lockdown. Imagine that?

It angers me that many patients who live in single bedsits – often so small, you couldn’t swing a cat in it, have landlords that are racking in the money. Sometimes they are charging over £800 a month for a tiny room. Some are even, laughably called, studio flats – this actually means, a room with a bed in it, a wardrobe and a toilet with a shower or a bath. The kitchen is shared with the other residents in the house.

If you lived in such conditions, on restricted money, with a mental health issue, how would you feel? It is no wonder that more and more people commit suicide every year and with lockdown on top, it’s kind of a kill me now situation!

I am not saying this to make people feel guilty – as someone said, guilt is a useless emotion – it just takes you round in circles unless you can take some action or come to terms with it.

I am trying to raise awareness!

Whilst we may feel we are hard done by in these times, if we have a job, we are lucky, if we have a business that is still functioning, we are lucky. If we have a home that is warm in the winter, we are lucky. If we have access to a clean bathroom and properly functioning water, gas and electricity, we are lucky. If we have a warm bed with clean covers on it, we are lucky. If we have food in our fridges and cupboards we are lucky. If we have a car, a smart phone, clothes on our back and shoes suitable for the weather we are lucky.

There are so many people out there and the numbers are growing, that have none of these as part of ‘normal life.’ It isn’t just the homeless – which is more obvious to us because we see them with their empty tins and their quilts around them, in doorways. We don’t see the poverty that is growing so fast in these times, not just for those suffering from mental health but, for many people.

I remember when I went to Ireland, I discovered that there were still children that didn’t have shoes on their feet. It made me cry to think of such a dreadful thing. As poor as I have been in the past, when my children were young, they always had shoes. Now, I believe that if it is not already happening in England, it will be. It is as if we are going back in time not forwards.

Mental health is on the rise, we live stressful, abnormally stressful lives. Many people during these lockdown’s have lost family members that they haven’t even been able to visit. Many have lost their businesses and their livelihood, even businesses that have been around for many, many years. People are afraid and when we are afraid, we become insular and often selfish and self absorbed. So next time you moan about the lockdown, remember we are all in this together.

Remember that there are people for whom, lockdown is the last straw and they give up on living.

Remember that there are people that are so alone they never go anywhere except maybe to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread.

Remember that there are people that are so depressed and so anxious that they can’t leave their home anyway.

Remember that there are many people living with awful hallucinations that look totally real to them – imagine living in a nightmare, all day, everyday.

Remember, even if you don’t have a lot of money, but you have your health, even in lockdown, you can ride a bike, take a walk, talk to your family and friends.

If you have a phone, you can phone someone. If you have a computer and/or smart phone, you can do Zoom meetings or facetime with family and friends. I know its not the same as seeing our loved ones in person but we have sooooooooo – many more options than some people, especially those with mental health issues.

So dance to music, sing along with music, have a laugh, ride your bike, kick a ball around, do your yoga and your meditation, take a drive and walk to the woods and thank the stars above that you can!

Health is Wealth

mental health

About the author

Kaarina Vanderkamp

I am a freelance writer for hire, writing on matters of health, mental health, herbal medicine and wellbeing. I love writing and creativity. I am a Medical Herbalist, Psychiatric Nurse, Writer and artist.

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