New findings from Time to Change Wales’ stigma survey reveals an increase in self-stigma amongst those suffering with mental health issues since government restrictions were introduced for the coronavirus pandemic. 

We know that people’s mental health will have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and Time to Change Wales was keen to understand what was happening in relation to experiences of stigma during this ‘lockdown’ period.

In May, Time to Change Wales surveyed over 100 individuals with lived experience of mental health issues from across Wales. The survey found that self-stigma presents a significant challenge to people experiencing a mental health problem with 54% of respondents saying that it has worsened since lockdown began. One of the respondents said: “I feel like I shouldn't feel this way when I am physically healthy, but I feel like I am being a burden on services by asking for help.”

The survey also uncovered that 17% (1 in 5) of people have experienced mental health stigma from either a family member, partner or a household member during lockdown. 

Life in lockdown has meant that family members are having to juggle their own mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of their loved ones; one respondent said: “Other people seem to be doing a better job of coping. My children are also having mental health issues from dealing with lockdown, and I feel like a failure because I can’t deal with my own issues and theirs at the same time.” 

Another respondent expressed how lockdown has affected her antenatal appointments, at a time when she’s experiencing a difficult pregnancy: “I’m 4 months into a difficult pregnancy and this has exacerbated an existing mental health problem for me. Lockdown has side swiped my care plan as I can't draw on friends and family for support, and there was around a month's gap until professional services had configured themselves to be able to provide the support that was missing. I spent a lot of that time bullying myself for not coping, for not being happy about expecting a much-wanted baby.”

The workplace is consistently reported as one of the key areas where stigma is most commonly experienced and where it is most harmful. One respondent said: “Workload has increased with less opportunity to meet others.” This highlights the growing demand of work in an isolating time which can exacerbate mental health problems. 

The survey found that 22% of respondents felt stigmatised for their poor mental health in employment during the COVID-19 restrictions. When placing this alongside the anticipated tough economic climate as a result of COVID-19, more needs to be done to improve workplace environments and support the mental wellbeing of staff as businesses and organisations face one of the biggest challenges of post-COVID recovery. 

Lowri Wyn Jones, Time to Change Wales Programme Manager said: “Mental health stigma and discrimination are not likely to go away in the course of Wales’ recovery from the pandemic. In fact, the pandemic can further exacerbate experience of stigma and self-stigma so it’s more important than ever for Time to Change Wales to continue supporting Champions, communities and employers to challenge stigma and to create a culture of change so that people can access the support they need when they need it.”

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