Mental Health Awareness Week 18-24 May 2020

It's important to be kind to ourselves and each other during coronavirus

Mental Health Awareness
Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time, but this year, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Mental Health Foundation's "Mental Health Awareness Week" is especially important. The theme this year is kindness which is particularly relevant in light of the coronavirus affecting all our lives with many of us worrying about what it all means for ourselves and our loved ones.

In March 2020, a number of leading psychiatrists and psychologists warned, in an article for The Lancet Psychiatry, that the Coronavirus pandemic could have a "profound" effect on people's mental health - now and in the future and they called for urgent research into the issue.

Surveys suggested that anxiety and isolation were already affecting the public and that a wide range of support would need to be tailored to specific groups, such as children and front-line health workers. "Increased social isolation, loneliness, health anxiety, stress and an economic downturn are a perfect storm to harm people's mental health and wellbeing," said Prof Rory O'Connor, one of the paper's authors, from the University of Glasgow. He said doing nothing would risk a rise in conditions such as anxiety and depression, more people turning to alcohol, drugs and gambling, as well as other consequences, such as homelessness.

For those who already have existing mental health problems the impact of the pandemic is also extremely concerning. The Mental health charity, Mind, has reported that people are struggling to access the support they need. It has found that many patients are simply being discharged from NHS mental-health services, and that referrals to children's and adolescent mental-health services and psychological therapies had dropped. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said "the longer people went without treatment and support, the more unwell they would become. Sadly the ultimate consequence of this is a rise in self-harm and suicides." This was evidenced during the Sars epidemic of 2003, when there was a 30% increase in suicide in the over-65s.

It is clear from the research that the Government and mental health services need to understand not only how to support people properly now, but also what the long-term impact is likely to be on people's mental health and the services that will need to be put in place to help people rebuild their lives. The real concern is that given how stretched the services were even prior to the pandemic that this will not happen.

If you are concerned about your mental health or if you are concerned about the mental state of a loved one, our experienced Mental Health Team can offer you expert advice and assistance on a wide range of legal mental health issues. This includes assisting if you have been detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.

In addition we can advise how The Coronavirus Act 2020 impacts your rights if you are sectioned because of your mental health and changes to how the Mental Health Act works. Furthermore the Coronavirus Act 2020 has changed the laws affecting your rights to social care and this also may affect you if you receive social care, or if you are a carer who receives support.

Please contact a member of our experienced Mental Health Team for further advice on 01733 882800 or email info@hcsolicitors.co.uk.

Author: Elizabeth Thompson, Senior Solicitor

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.