Coronavirus Suicide Concerns As Many Struggle To Access Mental Health Support, Charity Finds

Almost a quarter of people who tried to access support in the past fortnight have been unable to get help.
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A quarter of people who have tried to access mental health support during lockdown have been unable to get the help they need, according to mental health charity Mind.

In an ongoing survey about the toll of coronavirus on mental health, which has reached 8,200 people, people cited difficulty getting in contact with their GP or mental health team (24%) as one of the main reasons for this lack of support. Others felt unable to use, or uncomfortable using, phone or video call technology (22%) or said appointments were cancelled (22%).

One respondent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “My mental health has got worse. I went to A&E suicidal and was told that there was nothing they could do. I contacted the crisis team and they said the same.”

Some people are also actively avoiding seeking support as they worry their problems aren’t important enough, given the coronavirus outbreak.

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive, said the results of the survey are “deeply concerning”. “People with mental health problems have been hit hard by the current situation,” he said.

The Mad Covid project has been sharing stories from mental health service users throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. After conducting interviews with people using these services across the country, it also found respondents faced difficulties accessing crisis services, some of which appear to be running a scaled-back service, as well as uncertainty regarding crisis provision.

One respondent, called Dylan*, said: “I phoned the crisis team, in line with my care plan, and the worker on the other end of the phone told me she thought I needed something more to be put in place but in the end wasn’t able to provide or arrange anything despite us both agreeing it was necessary.”

Suicide Crisis, a charity offering a safe place for people who are suicidal, witnessed a 40% increase in the number of people contacting its crisis service in the days after the lockdown was extended.

“The positive is that they were seeking help,” Joy Hibbins, the charity’s CEO and founder, tells HuffPost UK. “It’s important we remind everyone there’s a lot of help available from charities all through this lockdown period.”

A high percentage of people accessing the Suicide Crisis service are also engaged with mental health services, but their usual psychiatric appointments aren’t taking place, which has led to a deterioration in people’s mental health.

“I understand clinicians are checking in with them by phone, but it’s not the same as the regular appointments they used to have,” she says. “And if their mental health deteriorates, it can be very difficult to get hold of their clinician. This is why they are accessing our crisis services instead.”

Mental health experts have warned that governments need to give “urgent consideration” to their public health response to prevent any impact of the pandemic on the number of suicides. Writing in The Lancet Psychiatry, they said an increase in suicides is not inevitable, provided preventive action is taken.

“It’s so important that mental health services are up and running again as quickly as possible,” says Hibbins. “I worry this is going to happen too slowly. It should be a priority that face-to-face appointments can resume as soon as possible. It needs to be done as safely as possible, of course.”

Evidence shows that when people do not get mental health support early enough, they are more likely to reach crisis point and need emergency help.

“The coronavirus pandemic is not just a physical health emergency. People with mental health problems must not be forgotten.””

- Paul Farmer, Mind

One fifth of people who have sought support for their mental health have turned to charities like Mind and community groups, the survey revealed. Charities are now calling for mental health to be a government priority during the pandemic, particularly as many of them have become go-tos for those in crisis.

Responding to Mind’s survey, Claire Murdoch, NHS national director for mental health, said: “The NHS is pulling out all the stops to respond to the biggest global health threat in a century, while also ensuring people can still safely access the mental health services they need, so our message to anyone experiencing poor mental health is: the NHS is here for you, please help us help you, and come forward for the care you need.

“Frontline teams are offering flexible options to keep people safe from the virus and have led a significant increase in phone and video consultations and online support, which will continue to be the right choice for many in the coming months and years, but face-to-face appointments have been and will continue to be available for anyone who needs them.”

A Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to supporting everyone’s mental wellbeing, especially during this unprecedented period.

“People can continue to access mental health services, including virtually, and we have released new tailored guidance to help people deal with this outbreak through practical tips and advice.

“We are already spending record amounts on mental health and we recently provided £5million to mental health charities to fund additional services for people struggling with their mental health as a result of the pandemic.”

Farmer said the charity will “closely follow” the measures the NHS is taking, ensuring that resource is spread appropriately, and strive to support people through their services as best they can.

“The coronavirus pandemic is not just a physical health emergency,” he added. “People with mental health problems must not be forgotten.”

*Name has been changed by the Mad Covid project to maintain anonymity.

Resources for mental health support:

  • Mind’s website has a range of information and tips to boost physical and mental wellbeing. Their helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
  • YoungMinds (which supports people under 25) provides a free 24/7 crisis text messenger service. If someone is in mental health crisis, they can text YM to 85258 for support.
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on
  • Sane can provide support through its website. The charity has a messaging system in place with trained professionals.
  • Suicide Crisis provides a 24 hour crisis service, 365 days a year.