21 April 2020

We need to act now

Minimising the toxic effect of lockdown
Mental Health

"The reality of physical distancing has well and truly set in. For hundreds of millions of people around the world, it has meant huge changes to our daily lives.

Increased social isolation, loneliness, anxiety and stress as well as a massive economic downturn has created a perfect storm that threatens our mental health and wellbeing.

Through Movember-funded research, we know that male suicide is strongly linked to unemployment, social isolation, financial hardship and relationship breakdown. As a result of the pandemic, these factors are already here or, are on the horizon, for huge numbers of men.

We are in an unprecedented situation and it will be some time before the scale of the mental health crisis becomes apparent. But even at this early stage, there may be some clues as to what might be happening in millions of households around the world and indeed, what could lie ahead.

Earlier this year, before the majority of countries announced lockdowns of various forms, the Lancet medical journal published a review of 24 studies, documenting the psychological impact of quarantine.

It will come as no great surprise that people quarantined following outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and MERS, were very likely to develop a wide range of symptoms of poor mental health including low mood, stress, anxiety, irritability, depression and post-traumatic stress. These effects are already being reported in the first research papers from China about the Covid-19 lockdown.

In parents who have been quarantined with children, the mental health toll appears to be even greater. In one study, over a quarter (28 per cent) of parents were suffering from a “trauma-related mental health disorder”.

Some experts have speculated that once restrictions are lifted, we will face a secondary epidemic of burnouts and stress-related absenteeism in the latter half of this year.

That’s why it’s crucial that we prepare now for the help that will be needed after the end of this lockdown. If we do nothing, there will be a heavy price to pay.

To this end, we need to make sure that people understand that a psychological reaction to living through a situation such as this, is completely normal and to be expected.

We also need to ensure that we have appropriate self-help tools that address the needs of large populations who have been affected by the lockdown and those interventions are available to everyone who needs them.

When it comes to offering psychological support to their populations, we know that governments can be slow to react and struggle to communicate with different audiences.

Movember knows how to talk to men and what works for them. That’s why we’re working developing a set of online tools, that will be launched over the next few months, providing guidance on how to have vital conversations about mental health, positive parenting and increasing mental health literacy in teens.

In these extraordinary times, we have a responsibility to do everything to give men and their families, the knowledge and tools to enable them to better cope through this pandemic. Together we will make it happen."

~ Michelle Terry, CEO at Movember
For more information visit: movember.com/stayingconnected