Can you remember what life was like before the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us? It seems such a distant memory, it’s easy to wonder how we managed to fit everything in before our lives unexpectedly changed. As we enter a period of what feels like some sort of normality returning, people all over the country are looking forward to seeing their friends, work colleagues and family again as well as getting back to filling their social calendars. But are they?

As we transition out of lockdown, there is a lot to think about both at home and in the outside world for people of all ages. Experiences will be varied depending on individual circumstances. Some will feel safe and enjoy having an element of freedom back in their lives, but for others it can bring up a range of feelings including fear and anxiety with the challenges it presents.

It will be difficult to gauge the full impact it has on people’s mental health until we fully emerge from it, but the effects of post lockdown anxiety are certainly being felt by all of us in some form. For those who are returning to the workplace, it is triggered by thoughts of socialising, falling behind on your hectic work schedule, sharing space with others, or facing the commute in the armpits of others on buses and trains. It could even be juggling childcare, spending less time at home with the family or enjoying hobbies, even if you were doing this prior to COVID-19. Priorities may be set to change for many of us.

The pandemic has put a huge strain on many young people who were already struggling with their mental health. For young people, easing lockdown brings new fears of the future, of uncertainty in how the world will now look not only professionally with the economic impact, but also socially, finding routine, coping with academic pressures, and finding support again after it breaking down during lockdown.

Young Minds carried out a survey after the schools reopened back in September 2020. It reported almost a quarter of respondents out of 2,011 young people, (23%), said there was less mental health support in their school than before the pandemic. While only 9% agreed there was more. When a survey was repeated during the January 2021 lockdown, it was clear this most recent lockdown was harder to cope with.

It’s clear the effects are seen across all age groups and situations. My friend gave birth to a healthy baby girl back in June 2020, who has not seen another human face to face apart from close family members this whole time. Imagine the confusion of now leaving the home and having to experience new senses, people, and places you never knew existed for the first time. For this little girl, the world is a very scary place, and is often distressed when she sees someone she does not know or is presented with a new situation. This raises the question; will we see a new generation of children that will have severe mental health issues? Problem’s socialising, interacting?

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England according to Mind, the mental health charity. Could this be set to rise?

Lockdown itself has already highlighted the increased pressure on mental health. Whilst some may feel an element of relief and excitement with lockdown restrictions easing, only time will tell of the negative impact this will have and continue to have on others for years to come. The above is only touching on the surface of how people are feeling and coping.

Now more than ever Mental Health must remain a priority. We need to advocate mental health, get people talking, share experiences and signpost support. After all, it’s okay to not be okay. Whether it is in school, university, work, or voluntary organisations, there is still more that can be done. Becoming a qualified Mental Health First Aider is a positive first step in raising awareness and providing much needed support. Why not be the change that is needed to be seen?

You can become a Mental Health First Aider with SAMS, the South East’s award winning health and safety consultancy and training company. We hope to see you there!