The pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s mental health worldwide. It’s been discussed in the media, in online groups, and I’m sure you’ve talked to your friends about the impact it has had on you and people you know. Everyone’s experiences have been vastly different and we have been forced to stay apart to keep ourselves and each other healthy which, for social creatures, is deeply unnatural.
The thing is, some of these problems have always existed and the pandemic has just amplified them on a global scale.
To put it in perspective, in 2018 the Samaritans reported that there had been a 10.9% increase in the UK suicide rate, with men aged 45-49 having the highest rate of all. In addition to that, the rate for females under 25 has increased by 93.8% since 2012, to its highest level in 2019.
What I find so disheartening about these figures is that the same report states that only one-third of people who commit suicide were in contact with a mental health professional in the year leading up to their deaths. The Samaritans aren’t alone in their findings, several mental health organisations have reported along the same lines, and it makes me question why people haven’t accessed the resources they so desperately need.
As part of my 4-year studies to become a Counsellor I had to attend therapy as part of the course, but my very first therapy session happened way before I had even considered becoming a counsellor. Sometimes I reflect on the positive impact therapy had in my life and, when I do, I’m not sure I would be here today if it wasn’t for the sessions I attended over 20 years ago.
I still remember having various obstacles stopping me seeking help at the various times I needed it, and how hard it was for me to overcome each of them. Sometimes I was just so busy that I put it off. Sometimes I didn’t think I could afford a round of sessions. And sometimes they were excuses I used to avoid the perceived stigma of needing help. It wasn’t until later that I realised that my main barrier was not looking after my own needs first.
The American Counselling Association ran a survey asking people for the reason they avoided treatment and they found the following: • 58% - Financial barriers • 36% - Lack of health insurance coverage • 32% - Unsure whether counselling would be effective • 28% - Unsure where to seek counselling • 21% - Couldn’t find a counsellor with whom they felt comfortable • 19% - Reluctance to face their problems • 15% - Social stigma
My own experiences as a counsellor have revealed other reasons such as:
• negative experience seeking help previously
• cultural aspects
• gender-related issues
• perceiving whatever they are going through as not serious enough
• denial that there is a ‘problem’ that needs to be addressed
• assuming time will sort ‘things out’
Covid brings its own set of limitations. Right now, face to face counselling is still available but it is limited but due to the current circumstance it may not suit the the client or the counsellor. This can be an issue as online and telephone counselling has many benefits but may not be accessible to everyone. The way I see it, the reasons for not seeking help are personal and often there is more than one barrier.
As counsellors, we are here to help and you are not alone. While an individual counsellor may not be able to help you, there will be one of us out there that can. Choosing the right counsellor is very important as a great part of the work is often the result of a good therapeutic relationship.
So am wondering how we, as individuals and society as a whole, can break those barriers?
Samaritans, day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline (England only): https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline
Additional charities offering mental health support: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/?fbclid=IwAR2EX3RkBJ-6pmqH6Ot7NCTwI5YdupUahIbvcR_LRTsk1XOID80LXkQLEWg
Hello, I am Rose! I am a qualified Integrative Counsellor currently offering online counselling to individuals and couples. If you would like to find out more about me and my work, have a look at my website. I would love to hear from you!