Health bosses say depression and anxiety to double over next few months

News / Tue 11th Aug 2020 at 08:39am

By Local Democracy Reporter

Piers Meyler

DEPRESSION and anxiety due to Covid-19 is expected to double over the next few months – leading to four in ten people being affected.

Essex County Council (ECC) said there are significant concerns about mental wellbeing as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.

Despite the number of mental health cases being presented appearing to be levelling out, the council does expect to see an increase in the long term.

Unemployment is believed to be a main driver, with ECC expecting that eight in ten of those unemployed will end up suffering from anxiety or depression.

The numbers presenting with serious mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may also increase by around a fifth.

Up to 20 per cent who end up in intensive care from Covid-19 are likely to be left with long term mental health issues.

Moira McGrath, Director of Commissioning (Adult Social Care) at ECC, said that general metal health issues will see the steepest increase – largely through the economic impact of Covid-19.

She told an ECC health committee last week: “Normally prevalence in the population is about 20 per cent and we would expect that to increase by up to 40 per cent demand over the next few months.

“That is a combination of the impacts of the disease – some of the issues around bereavement, some around isolation as a result of Covid.

“But also very important is the economic impact we are expecting to see with the potential increase in unemployment.

“So we would expect to see that around 80 per cent of those unemployed will experience anxiety or depression.”

She added there are a number of services that can help, such as Citizens Advice and the Essex Welfare Service.

However she said there is also a general increase in the number of people presenting with serious mental health issues.

She said: “For people with serious mental illnesses that will be conditions like bipolar, schizophrenia. We would expect to see in around the first six months a 10 per cent increase in exacerbation of those illnesses and over the longer term period of maybe 12 months then that could go up to 20 per cent.

“We are certainly seeing anecdotally across the system an increase in the number of people both known to the service who have ongoing serious mental illness and those who are experiencing their first episode of serious illness coming into the system.”

ECC is planning to have to deal with the impact three or four years after the pandemic by “flexing” preventative measures.

Ms McGrath added the mental health impact on adult social care staff is also significant.

She said: “A lot of it is talking about it, ensuring people are self caring, making sure they have a range of things they can tap into and that has been mirrored in a lot of the organisations we have been working with.

“The concern is that some of our smaller care organisations are not necessarily well placed to provide that range of support and I am concerned about the care workforce – particularly those homes who have had a significant number of deaths.

“It has been onerous on them, they have been very much on the front line. We are looking at what more practical care support we can offer.”

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