Mixed messaging ‘exacerbated’ mental health issues during pandemic

Continual ‘mixed messaging’ from the government during the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on the mental health of people in the West Midlands, a study has stated.

And young adults and women have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic in terms of their mental health, it has been suggested – with financial and employment concerns among the most common issues faced.

The information comes from papers due to go before the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) wellbeing board next week, with a study conducted into the impact of the pandemic on mental health on 129 people from across the region.

It showed that housing insecurity and poor-quality housing, employment and financial losses and the impact of children being at home were some of the biggest contributors to poor mental health, while reduced access to mental health services was also a factor.

Instances of domestic abuse were also up during lockdown, with the report stating how ‘the confinement of families to the home during lockdown placed strain on their relationships.’

And it appears that messaging from the government throughout the pandemic also had a sustained negative impact on the mental health of people from across the region, with the report noting: “Research participants reported general anxiety about the pandemic including fears of the virus itself and wider pandemic impact.

“They described how anxiety has been exacerbated by perceived mixed messaging from the Government as well as ‘information overload’ through social media and news channels.

“Frequent ‘bad news’ for example, reports of increased unemployment, financial difficulties and the increased number of deaths, have added to increased levels of anxiety, particularly amongst people from ‘Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, young people and people with pre-existing mental health difficulties.

“Many of the people interviewed spoke of instances of behavioural changes in children alongside higher levels of anxiety. Parental concerns about their children’s education and the additional pressure of emergency home schooling was also a factor in increased anxiety levels, particularly among women who took responsibility for supporting home learning.

“Organisations working with families have seen a significant rise in domestic abuse driven, in part, by lockdowns. Respondents also revealed the increased pressures on families, especially those trying to juggle family life under lockdown while working to support the mental health and wellbeing of others.

“People with caring responsibilities, and those working or volunteering in health and social care, were particularly affected by these pressures.”

The report will be discussed on Tuesday, October 19, by the WMCA’s wellbeing board.

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