When are we going to be back to normal? That is the question everyone has been asking for months.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many people have struggled with their mental health.

Lockdown rules made it impossible to socialize with friends, visit family, celebrate certain occasions such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.

Holidays, summer festivals, annual events have been canceled or postponed.

Local businesses had had a hard time trying to maintain their company. People have lost their jobs, which affected their usual standards of living.

Schools and universities had to move to an online teaching system, which seems not as efficient as face-to-face classes. Our lives got turned upside down.

Overall, the quality of life dramatically decreased during the lockdown, which took a toll on people’s mental well-being.

According to MIND, the most common mental health illness developed during the coronavirus pandemic is depression and anxiety.

There may be different factors that have contributed to this.

Depression, naturally, can be developed due to being in isolation for a long time. Moreover, it is hard to maintain relationships.

Video calls will never replace a traditional interaction when you meet with people in person.

Furthermore, the unknown future and the inability to plan and organize things ahead of time can result in anxiety, especially for those who are usually very organized.

Considering all these factors, it goes without saying that the lockdown has been a real challenge for everyone.

It must be very disappointing for students graduating this year, however, there is nothing universities can do about it.

The rules apply to everyone and the most important thing is our safety.

Teesside University has various services available for students to help them with their education and mental health during the lockdown.

In the response to FOI’s request, Teesside University confirmed that, from June 2020 to the end of February 2021, 520 students have approached the University’s mental health services for support.

Asked about the support they give to students they replied:

‘The University offers holistic assessments of need to refer into appropriate services/interventions.

Mental health practitioners work with students to support referrals into specialist external services as well as working one-to-one with students on developing strategies to manage their mental health including safety planning.

The University also offers on-call services for crisis needs as well as online drop-in services at key points in the year.

The University collaborates with MIND to offer a ‘Mentally Healthy Universities’ program.’

Apart from that, the university has many online activities on Microsoft Teams such as Faith and Reflection Service, Creative Writing for Well-being, and many more.

Daniel Lyon, Teesside University’s 1st-year Comics and Graphic Novels student, shares his personal experience during the lockdown:

‘At the time, I was already going through a tough time and when I first arrived at Teesside University, I kept thinking about all the good possibilities such as making new friends as well as experiencing life on campus.

Daniel LyonDue to social distancing, making friends was going to be tough, especially when you cannot come into close contact as well as providing an opportunity to meet up and hang out in pubs or anywhere else within the local area.

For one who has got a lot of anxiety and lack of self-confidence, I will admit the online lessons have been an easy way forward for my own mental health, however, when I first arrived, I wanted to make a difference and challenge myself by walking out of my comfort zone and agreed that it would be better to mix with others face-to-face in class rather than look at a screen all the time.

I will admit and I think I speak for everyone here at Teesside University, that Covid-19 has not been kind to us at all and we have had to sacrifice quite a lot.

But already things are starting to look positive and after a full year of discomfort, we may finally get our everyday lives back to normality with face-to-face contact as well as being able to go to the pubs or cinemas, etc. It’s only a matter of time.’

Based on Office for National Statistics Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, it is noticeable that younger adults have mentally been affected the most during the lockdown.

Young people have certain expectations of entertainment in their lives.

Going on a night out with pals is one of the most common activities for them.

With clubs being closed, it is hard to get the same kind of fun and stress release anywhere else. Online learning must have been a real challenge too.

While the young generation has been significantly affected by COVID-19, Jay Whittle, who is amongst this group, has decided to make the most of the current situation.

Jay is a recent graduate of BA Honours Multi-Media Sports Journalism degree at UCFB in Manchester.

He has been a fan of Latics’ football club for a long time.

The coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to play and watch matches. Jay decided to create The Wigan Athletic Supporters Mental Health Group for fans, which met with a lot of interest and success.Jay Whittle

Jay talks about his inspiration:

‘I felt it was time to create a group, a nice and safe environment where fans are gonna open about their mental health without fear of being judged. As long as you have someone there that you know will listen, you will feel a lot better, and you can get the weight off your shoulders.’

The group has been running for a few months now. Fans can support each other and share their private thoughts on lockdown and how it affected them mentally.

The Opinions and Lifestyle survey also proved that many impoverished people developed depressive symptoms during the pandemic.

The coronavirus spreading fast across the globe caused millions of companies, pubs, restaurants, hotels to shut down.

Consequently, many people have lost their jobs or got paid on furlough, which for some might not be enough to maintain the average standards of living.

Financial difficulties are one of the factors that may trigger depressive symptoms.

Having to stress about the money must be mentally exhausting, especially now, as there are fewer job advertisements, due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19.

As a result, more people developed depression due to their financial instability.

The same survey (Office for National Statistics – Opinions and Lifestyle Survey) discovered that the number of key workers and non-key-workers mentally affected by the coronavirus pandemic was equal, whereas unemployed people suffered less.

The reason behind this might be stress at work, problems with adjusting to a new work environment and safety rules, being put at risk of getting infected while working.

While some may consider having a job during lockdown being lucky, for the working community it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, as they are outside every day surrounded by customers, patients, and others, putting themselves at risk.

For those who moved to work from home, their mental state could have been equally affected, especially when having children.

Schools have been closed due to lockdown restrictions.

It must be hard to find time for work and take care of children at the same time.

Unemployed people aged 65 years and over suffered more than unemployed people between the ages of 16-64.

Shortly after the discovery of coronavirus, it became clear that they are most at risk.

Hence, many families decided to isolate themselves from vulnerable family members to protect them from the virus.

Many grandparents could not see their grandchildren for months, and they had to isolate themselves alone.

Another survey from established that 62 people out of 100 questioned have developed depressive symptoms because of lockdown.

With the ongoing global pandemic, it is crucial to raise awareness about mental health issues.

People trained in mental health first aid have the knowledge that prepares them for difficult situations.Brian Page

Brian Page, Mental Health and Safeguarding Instructor and Assessor at Aquarius Mental Health Solutions, explains the importance of mental health first aid:

‘I think it should be crucial because the amount of mental health problems out there at the moment really is phenomenal.

I think it’s the second biggest illness out there with heart problems and cancer.

There are so many different mental health illnesses, and when I deliver courses I just talk about ten of them.

I think it’s important because everyone has got mental well-being just as well as people have physical well-being, so if there’s something wrong with you kind of mentally, it needs to be checked out and treated just like if you had a problem with your body.’

In most cases, the pandemic had a negative impact on people’s mental well-being.

The uncertain future makes people wonder what to do with their lives, how is it all going to end, but most importantly the question is WHEN? When will this all be over?

When will I be able to see all my family? When am I going to get back to the office? IF?

While no one knows what the future holds for us and how to prepare, during this time, it is essential to take good care of our mental health.

Private therapists can be a bit expensive, but there are some ways of getting mental health treatment for free.

There are organizations such as MIND, IMPACT, and many more that help people cope with their illnesses for free.

All you need to do is contact them and tell them about your problems so they can find the right type of therapy for you. Remember, you’re not alone.


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