A countywide campaign to tackle declining mental wellbeing in the county as a result of coronavirus has been launched today (Wednesday 16 September) by Essex County Council (ECC).
Latest figures show the number of assessments by adult mental health practitioners have increased by around 50% and referrals to mental health professionals have increased significantly.
The Essex Mental Health and Wellbeing Team is also seeing its highest number of referrals since it was established.
In response, ECC is launching Mental Health Essex, a targeted, countywide campaign that aims to reach those most at risk of suffering with mental health issues as a result of Covid-19, providing information and support.
Director of Public Health, Dr Mike Gogarty said:
“Early data reveals that as a country, anxiety has risen and wellbeing has fallen as a result of Covid-19, and Essex is no different, which is obviously very concerning.
“Our own research suggests that the rates of depression for adults in the county may rise from affecting 11.1% of the population to 22.6% with anxiety levels possibly rising from 18% to 21.6%. This would take the total population of those with common mental health concerns from 128,000 individuals to 195,000 individuals. We must do all we can to stop this happening by reaching out to these people and ensuring they are aware of the support available to them.
“Whether you are worried about money, have lost loved ones, have been feeling anxious about the pandemic, feeling depressed, stressed or isolated, we understand and we are here for you.”
Since March, coronavirus restrictions have meant families, individuals, and groups in shared households have been living in isolation from their friends and families. This will continue following new rules put in place this week, whereby the number of people allowed at social gatherings has decreased from thirty to six.
Along with many feeling isolated, others have lost loved ones or not been able to say goodbye to those who have died during the pandemic. Schools and businesses have had restricted openings and for many people working patterns have changed.
Additional pressure has been caused by people needing to juggle home working, home schooling, caring for children, financial uncertainty, job losses, working in restricted conditions or being on the front line in supporting the fight against the virus.
Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, Cllr John Spence said:
“Mental illness is a scourge. Once someone’s life is blighted by it, it is so hard to shake free. So let’s do the things that stop us getting ill. Getting exercise, meeting people as far as we are allowed to and eating well all make a real difference. Let’s remove the shame of mental illness, so that when people are struggling, they don’t hide it but quickly seek the help they need, so what starts as a problem does not become an emergency.”
The campaign uses local insight to target specific groups that have been identified as being most affected by the pandemic, and who may be suffering more with their mental health. These groups are:
- Those with employment issues (furloughed, newly unemployed, at risk of redundancy)
- Those with young children (those with children age 0-4 higher risk, but also increase in MH issues for those with 0-15s)
- Women (due to caring responsibilities)
- Younger adults
ECC and partners across the county offer a wide range of support to those struggling with their mental health. More details about support available throughout the county can be found here- www.essex.gov.uk/mental-health