Coronavirus: How lockdown has affected mental health

Image copyright Google Image caption The BBC’s Unusual Times podcast has been asking people how…

Coronavirus: How lockdown has affected mental health

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The BBC’s Unusual Times podcast has been asking people how the lockdown has affected mental health

Covid-19 may be a physical illness but it has also hit mental health hard.

In August, a group of NHS leaders said they were seeing a rise in people reporting severe mental health difficulties while charities including Mind, Samaritans and Calm have all said they have seen an increase in people coming to them for help.

The BBC’s Unusual Times podcast spoke to people around the country about the impact the pandemic and lockdown has had on them.

‘I developed an eating disorder’

Cassius Hackworth, second year drama student, 19, living in London but from North Wales

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Cassius Hackworth

“Lockdown has affected my mental health for the first time in my life – I look back at myself in March and see a different person.

“About a month ago I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.

“It started when I got my reports back from college. Some of the things said ‘Cass needs to build up some core strength and maybe get a bit fitter’ – which is completely fair.

“I wasn’t a very fit person, and musical theatre courses require you to be strong, and I wanted to be strong.

“I watched what I ate and started exercising. Over the next couple of months it became this thing I had to do every day. It got more and more toxic as lockdown went by.

“I realised it was really bad around July, August time. I didn’t actually realise I had an eating disorder until one of my friends said a lot of the things I am doing are dangerous and demonstrate eating disorder habits so I got help.

“I felt like I was the only one going through it but there’s thousands of men going through this.

“Reaching out for help is incredibly brave and I am proud that I’ve done it”.

‘I’ve been up and down like a rollercoaster’

Ricki Frost, 31, from Middlesbrough

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Ricki Frost

“My own opinion of lockdown is that it’s been an absolute nightmare.

“I suffer mental health problems anyway through a serious head injury I had as a teenager. It left me with brain damage on my frontal lobe, it affects my emotions, my personality, my sense of humour – everything.

“Through the injury I was also left with epilepsy – it means I can’t work, I can’t drive – so I have to stay fit and active every day.

“Lockdown meant you couldn’t see your friends, go to the pub, go to the gym – it was a nightmare.

“When the restrictions lifted I was back at it. Now we’re going back in – what are we supposed to do? I’m losing the plot.

“I write music and write about my problems and that’s the only way I’m ever going to get anywhere with all this. I’m just trying to keep at it and see where this goes.

“It’s beyond a joke. I don’t know how everyone else is coping but I’ve been up and down like a rollercoaster.”

‘It got bad very fast’

Elaine Robertson, care home activities co-ordinator, 24, from County Durham

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Elaine Robertson

“I’ve been working as an activities coordinator in a care home during the pandemic. As you can imagine, it’s been a very challenging time.

“I already suffer from depression but since I caught Covid in April, I’ve had quite a big dip. It got very bad very fast.

“To cope I’ve been taking things easy. I go on lots of walks in the countryside – I’ve been to loads of places in the North East I’d never been to before.

“Most importantly – I’ve taken up roller skating and dyed my hair lagoon blue. These two things have both been very healing.

“I want to be able to take our residents to South Shields. I want them to be able to hug their grandchildren.

“I’d even be chuffed just to take them to Greggs for a cuppa and a bit of cake just so they can get out.

“I also hope my hair doesn’t go green but that’s slightly less urgent.”

‘I suffered creative burnout’

MXYM, singer songwriter, 23, from Jarrow in South Tyneside

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“What’s affected me the most is the emotional and creative burnout.

“As soon as the initial lockdown started I was bombarded with social media posts saying that ‘this is the time to hone your craft – this is the time to do your dream project’.

“One of the things I saw a lot was the statement ‘if you’re not working your hardest now – you never really wanted it’ and that kind of thing really stuck with me.

“I just went full throttle into projects, songs, videos, another song, concept, outfit, backdrop demo. I’ve got nothing left to give but my brain’s still stuck in this ‘if you’re not working – you’re not worth it’ zone.

“I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel of my brain to pump out a year-and-a-half’s worth of creativity in six months, yet I’m still sat at my desk annoyed at myself for having nothing left to give.

“With all that in mind, my advice to anyone else struggling would be that having more time to create doesn’t equate to having to create more.”

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by mental health issues, click here for a guide on where to find help and support.