Mental health impact of Covid-19 in Sheffield 'as significant as physical impact'

The number of people with emotional and mental health problems relating to Covid-19 in Sheffield is predicted to increase by 40 percent, equating to up to 1,800 extra referrals to adult services each month.

By Molly Williams
Monday, 17th August 2020, 11:22 am

Council officers detailed the impact of the pandemic on mental health in a recent report.

In it, they said: “It is now clear the psychological impact of Covid-19 will be as significant as the physical impact; and in many respects will last much longer.

"It is important therefore that mental wellbeing remains a key component of the city's ongoing response to Covid-19; both in terms of supporting the wider population but (importantly) supporting our staff and other key workers."

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Mental ill-health is a big issue.

They said during mid-April organisations reported a reduction in demand during lockdown but it is now increasing.

For example, Sheffield Mind reported a dramatic decrease in phone calls worried about mental health from 30 a week to just five or six but that this has since picked up and slightly exceeds pre-lockdown levels.

Meanwhile, Voluntary Action Sheffield, which coordinates a network of 37 community hubs, said one hub was now reporting an increase of 25 percent, from 500 to 625, people with mental health needs and that this was “similarly evident” in other hubs.

There has also been a doubling of referrals to some social prescribing services from general practitioners.

Officers added that debt and financial exclusion as a result of coronavirus will also result in a “significant” increase in future demand, and there was evidence of lockdown causing an increase in domestic abuse and children witnessing physical and sexual violence.

They said despite all of this, some research showed many experienced positives from lockdown including reduced day-to-day stresses and pressures; feeling good about helping others; and spending more time with family, in nature, doing hobbies and activities. Some children also said not being at school made them feel less stressed.

But council officers said generally speaking, problems relating to mental health and wellbeing will increase because of coronavirus.

Health Watch Sheffield said they found a mixed picture too, with some saying it helped their mental health and others saying they did not cope well.

Loneliness, lack of social support and organised activities and a reluctance to access online alternatives as well as the fear of catching Covid-19 all added to the negative impact.

While services aimed to keep up support, some found replacing normal services with phone calls and changes to staff due to sickness and redeployment made things more challenging.

The report will be discussed at a healthier communities and adult social care scrutiny committee meeting on August 19 from 4pm.

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