The Pandemic’s psychological scars

Apparently, the festive season was far from festive for many. Perhaps you already knew.

For according to a survey led by University College, London, feelings of depression and anxiety rose sharply over Christmas, especially among young people.

This may surprise. After all, there were fewer restrictions than last year; yet greater uncertainty. The pandemic is eating away at joy in many different ways.

The survey, based on a sample of 31,000 people in the first week of January, discovered the following:

• three in four people are concerned about NHS treatment for non-Covid problems being cancelled or postponed in the next three months
• two-thirds of people have major worries about hospitals being overwhelmed
• half feel that developing long Covid is a big concern
• 58% are concerned about family or friends catching Covid-19
• only four in 10 people say they fully understand the Covid rules in place at the moment

These are significant concerns; but beneath them is another, and that is the issue of trust in leadership.

Trust is presently being trampled on by ‘Partygate’. But even before the story broke with such force, people’s confidence in the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic had decreased over Christmas in all parts of the UK, except Scotland.

As Dr Daisy Fancourt, lead author of the report says, ‘The decrease in confidence in government to handle the pandemic likely contributed to the stresses many people faced over this period.’

We want a sense that someone is able to look after us; if this sense goes, it creates significant concern. We want to trust those who lead us, feel that we are in safe hands – this calms us.

But as Partygate unfolds in obfuscation and lie, what chance of that?

The loss of trust can be devastating to our sense of wellbeing, triggering feelings of abandonment.

And looking ahead?

Clearly the aim is to both lower infections and virulence through vaccination and then ease restrictions. This is the good news. Omicron is on the wane.

But what will follow omicron? Only a fool says they know.

We were uncertain at Christmas, and depression and anxiety rose sharply. And in many ways, we are uncertain still.

So, while there is a sense of an end, and a return to normality, psychologically, the pandemic will have a much longer reach as business and health provision recover only slowly; as individual lives recover only slowly.

The pandemic is over, yet the pandemic is not over. As we limp from the war zone of loss, fear and uncertainty, we best remember that no one is unscarred; and that deep mending takes time…

...and kindness.

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