We are facing a mental health crisis and low-pay workers are being hit hardest

man with his head in his hands
Jasmine Norden

Coronavirus (Covid-19) has hit the mental health of the poorest workers the hardest, a study has found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, found that lower-paid workers have borne the brunt of job and income losses during the pandemic. This has led to a larger impact on their mental health.

Of people experiencing economic consequences of coronavirus, lower-paid workers were twice as likely to report depression and health anxiety.

Doctor Dirk Witteveen, co-author of the study, said:

The economic burden of the COVID-19 lockdown disproportionately fell on the shoulders of workers in lower prestige-ranked jobs – those with lower-pay and lower-skill. They were confronted with a much greater risk of workload decreases, income loss, and job loss.

A mental health crisis

Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people will have to pursue mental health support due to the effects of the pandemic.

The Centre has called for the NHS and the government to prepare to meet this increased need, with a particular focus on reducing inequalities.

Petra Velzaboer, mental health consultant and psychotherapist, told The Canary:

I would suggest that the UK didn’t have the infrastructure prior to the pandemic to deal with the surge of mental health issues so without an increase in government investment it will certainly struggle over the next years.

The government announced £2m in funding to investigate the effects of coronavirus on mental health on 10 October.

Mental health charity Mind have called for the inequalities in mental health services to be addressed.

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns for Mind, told the Canary: 

Coronavirus has had a massive impact on the mental health of the nation. Whether that’s because of illness or bereavement, isolation due to lockdown, or factors related to the recession, like job security and debt – this year has been a tough one for many of us.

She added:

The earlier people receive support for their mental health, the more likely they are to benefit from treatment. As we enter a second wave, its crucial well-resourced, timely mental health treatment is available for anyone who needs it. This includes urgent investment to make sure people are not waiting months or even years for therapy.

Accessing mental health support

A poll earlier this month found that nearly one in four adults wait longer than three months between their assessment and their next appointment. Some people reported waiting up to four years for mental health treatment.

Additionally, 38% of respondents said they had contacted a crisis or emergency service while waiting for their next appointment.

Natasha Devon MBE, mental health campaigner and LBC presenter, told The Canary: 

…All the evidence shows a strong link between mental illness and poverty. Money doesn’t make you happy, but having enough money to survive and take care of your family is essential for keeping levels of stress and anxiety manageable – Long term stress and anxiety increases vulnerability to anxiety disorders and clinical depression. Additionally, people who can’t afford private healthcare are likely to be put on a lengthy NHS waiting list for therapy and mental health issues exist on a spectrum – They are easier to treat and manage the earlier they are caught.

Mental health services in the UK need urgent investment to prevent this crisis continuing to impact the lowest-paid workers the most.

If you are struggling with your mental health and need support, contact Samaritans at 116123.

Featured image via Pixabay/geralt

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