If you are one of the many who has suffered mental health issues as a result of lockdown, or have watched family members or friends succumb to the growing pressure the UK and Scottish governments have placed upon us during the course of the pandemic, this is likely to be a silly question
But it’s only now that we are receiving figures – from independent organisations and other bodies – which reflect the full extent of the UK’s current state of mind.
For example, an independent British healthcare company, which provides a UK-wide GP service, has reported a 500% surge in calls and access to its services requesting help on mental health issues.
Cheshire-based AKEA Life – which provides an award winning 5-star concierge GP and health service – says it has seen a large increase in requests from its existing client base, as well as new enquiries from clients signing up to its GP and health care service for families.
AKEA Life, which is a Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered company, has confirmed that around 90% of those calls looking for help on mental health issues were as a result of the pandemic and its effect on the NHS.
The company also reported seeing a very high percentage (around 65%) of younger children and adolescents struggling with mental health issues and the re-integration back into school.
Ben Paglia MD of AKEA Life said: “We are absolutely staggered at the amount of calls we are taking specifically on mental health issues relating to the effects of Covid and lockdown restrictions.
“Rather worryingly is the number of cases involving school children that are suffering with a wide range of issues including agoraphobia, anxiety about returning to school, fear and withdrawal symptoms.
“Clearly the impact of the pandemic is having a significant impact on the mental well-being of many school children and its serious.
“We have all seen how truly amazing the NHS is and the pressure that the doctors, nurses and healthcare staff have been under tackling Covid.
“But it’s clear to see that the system is desperately underfunded, under resourced and has been at breaking point for many years, Covid has been the last straw.
“It’s no coincidence that both mental health cases and suicide rates are at an all-time high. The physiological and psychological toll of the pandemic has pushed frontline services to breaking point and put many families into crisis.”
AKEA Life says it has seen a huge growth in corporate clients and families joining over the last few months as access to the NHS waiting list for specialist mental health care and that therapy can be anything from 6-12 months on average.
The company has warned that, due to the huge waiting list for NHS referrals and therapy, it could lead to an increase in people self-medicating or being put straight onto anti-depressants and left without proper support or review for years.
It claims the local GP service across the UK is buckling under the pressure and that doctors and nurses are, themselves, suffering with stress and anxiety, increased workloads and the pressures that Covid has bought.
Patient consultation has been reduced to a box ticking exercise with an allocated average of around 8 minutes per patient.
AKEA Life claims GPs cannot properly assess a person’s underlying health issues in this time or look at providing any other form of preventative health interventions.
“Traditionally private healthcare was seen as the preserve of the wealthy, now it is seen as an essential service that many of our clients are taking out as a ‘top-up’ to their existing NHS health care services and their local GP,” says Ben Paglia.
“Effectively we are providing another access point that can speed up that process of accessing specialist healthcare and treatment.
“We provide very affordable healthcare for families – which means they can get a same-day, private patient consultation and GP visit to their home or office and immediate referral and treatment for £30 per month.
“This puts the ownership and control of healthcare and wellbeing firmly back in the hands of the public.
“Our clients don’t have to wait days and weeks for an appointment they get same day consultations and referral for immediate treatment.
“We are seeing a sea change and a dynamic shift in healthcare provision in the same way that dentistry went through exactly the same shift from NHS dental services to the private sector opening up private practices.
“For someone who is suffering from mental health issues, they simply cannot wait six months for a referral to therapy and counselling.
“The same for children who are suffering with mental health issues. Left unchecked and without specialist treatment, a person’s mental health can deteriorate and become a ticking time bomb leading to many more complex issues.”
This sentiment is echoed by chartered clinical psychologist Peter Dragan: “Some psychologists have predicted a post-COVID mental health pandemic, particularly due to many people largely not being able to access support for a prolonged period, or enduring levels of stress and trauma that are either still ongoing, or only very recently beginning to change. Particularly this can come with traumatic bereavement, chronic health problems such as long- COVID, job losses and significant life changes.
“Other psychologists have disagreed with this prediction.
“But what we do know with some confidence, is that there are a number of groups who have been significantly negatively impacted by the pandemic, including those who continue to experience long-term health consequences from the virus; those who experienced bereavement; people who were already relatively socially isolated; those who have experienced job or financial losses; those experiencing housing insecurity; those working in a front-line service; people who lost important coping mechanisms and / or experience reduced access to health services during a time of illness.”