Today, open conversation about mental health is encouraged and as a result, more people are seeking help. However, even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, significant care deficits in mental health were unfortunately commonplace.
According to The Lancet, on top of this existing pressure, COVID-19 has disrupted the delivery of mental health services and the psychosocial burden of lockdown, job losses and deaths of loved ones will become evident in the coming months.
With this in mind, the Medical Director at the wellbeing platform Manual, has studied rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse and suicides in Europe as part of a wider health study of 156 countries worldwide.
The findings highlight which nations could see the largest surges in mental health cases as we enter the next stage of the pandemic.
When looking at the mental health risks in 37 European countries, France scores the poorest, ranking in last place in Europe and 150/156 countries worldwide:
|European country||Score for mental health risks
Before the pandemic, 1 in five people in France experienced a mental health problem which required treatment and shortages of staff, hospital places and resources were frequently reported.
Starting on March 17, French citizens endured a strict eight-week lockdown to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus. The country has recently begun a second phase of easing lockdown rules as infection rates continue to fall. However, as in many countries, social distancing measures and restrictions on travel continue.
Belgium (36/37), Norway (35/37), the Netherlands (34/37) and Sweden (33/37) make up the rest of the bottom five. Two other Scandinavian countries, Finland (32/37) and Denmark (21/37) also score below average for mental wellbeing which is surprising given they are usually considered model nations for happiness and wellbeing.
Famously, Sweden took the no-lockdown approach and found itself with the world’s highest death rate from Covid-19 in early June. So, while residents won’t have experienced the psychological impacts of a strict lockdown, many will have suffered distress from grief and anxiety over the accelerated spread of the virus.
Spain (29/37) and to a lesser extent Italy (18/37) – which were the epicentres of the virus in March and whose residents experienced the strictest and longest lockdowns on the continent – also have concerningly high levels of mental health disorders, substance abuse and suicide rates pre-coronavirus.
Similarly, the UK (22/37) and Ireland (31/37) rank below average for mental wellbeing. England has experienced the largest number of cases and Coronavirus-related deaths in the UK, and for the first time in 12 weeks, those considered clinically vulnerable have been allowed to go outside and meet one other person.
Already, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has reported a 43 per cent increase in urgent and emergency mental health cases since the end of March in England and this is expected to continue as the country eases its lockdown.
Dr Earim Chaudry, Medical Director at Manual commented on the findings:
“It really is eye-opening to see which countries have the highest rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse and suicides, and explore how the COVID-19 pandemic could escalate these figures.
“It’s important governments and healthcare providers plan for an increase in mental health disorders as we enter the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic and allocate sufficient resources to ensure a high standard of care.
“Everyone no matter their gender, age or background, should own their mental health by accessing the support available to them and speaking to a medical professional as soon as symptoms appear.”
The full findings of the global study into mental and physical health risk factors can be explored on the study’s dedicated webpage here.