Our research with almost 12,000 people found that those who were more likely to struggle with their mental health before the pandemic have been most affected.
They urgently need tailored support.
Watch this video to hear from Anisah, Maccartney and Blake about their experiences and their tips for others.
Our reports look into the experiences of people with mental health problems in England and Wales
Following on from research we did in 2020, we launched a survey in April 2021 to find out how people with mental health problems are feeling and coping now.
We heard from almost 12,000 people across England and Wales about their experiences over the past year.
People with mental health problems report an increase in the severity of challenges they're facing now and concerns about the future.
Services must be ready for the increase in severity of people's mental health problems. They must take into account the trauma that people have experienced over the last year and how this might affect the support they need.
"Since March 2020 my mental health deteriorated and by the end of 2020 I was at breaking point once again."
Some groups have been hit harder and the pandemic has heightened inequalities that were already there. Our research shows people receiving benefits have been hit particularly hard and that more than half of benefit claimants are experiencing increasingly severe and complex problems, compared with 36% of people who are not receiving benefits.
Much more work needs to be done to ensure those who have struggled the most can get support, particularly young people from racialised communities and those in poverty.
"I have to fight to keep my benefits, I have to fight to look for a job. I feel like I’ve spent a year barely keeping my head above water and everyone I know has felt the same."
While adults and young people have struggled with loneliness, young people were more likely to say that loneliness made their mental health worse during the pandemic. Young people are also more likely to use negative coping mechanisms, like self-harm and spending too much time on social media.
Young people must be able to access the support they need, when they need it.
"Recently my anxiety has spiked so much that I can’t even do mundane tasks like using a printer without shaking. I can’t sit in a class I find difficult without shaking, I can’t speak in front of a class without shaking."
Although some people accessed support for the first time in pandemic, many people didn’t get support because they didn’t think their problem was serious enough. Some people also reported not feeling comfortable reaching out for support.
This shows there is still work to be done to give people hope and make them feel worthy of getting the support they need.
"You just feel ‘I’m a burden’, I’m there to help my family, they’ve already got enough on their plate."
Nearly half of those who took the survey thought their mental health would improve once restrictions ease. However, people receiving benefits are less likely to think this or feel positive about the future. People are also anxious about seeing people and getting ill.
While there is hope for some, people need support that recognises the impact of the pandemic. This also means responding to pressing social problems.
"Going back to normal is a lot of uncertainty and, as someone struggling with anxiety, uncertainty is anxiety-provoking."
The participants in our survey shared their tips on how to cope and manage your feelings.
"I advise anyone to speak to loved ones or health professionals about how they are feeling. The more you open up, the more you realise you are not alone."
"If you feel like you have no one, use online or phone support groups."
"Talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to anyone, whoever you love and trust. I promise you are not a burden."
"Slowly emerge from lockdown, take your own time to reflect and choose activities that best suit you and make you feel good, not just following others because this is the easiest path."
"What we've been through is massive, and it's OK to give yourself time to deal with how you're feeling."
"Happiness looks and feels different to everyone, so don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Wear what makes you feel good, go somewhere that makes you feel good, see someone that makes you feel good."