Number of people seeking help for suicidal thoughts spikes in lockdown

The UK is facing a ‘mental health pandemic’, experts have warned as it emerged the number of people seeking help because of suicidal thoughts has tripled since lockdown began.

Rethink Mental Illness has found that the number of people turning to their website for support with suicidal thoughts has tripled since the start of the pandemic, the Telegraph reported. The numbers jumped from 80,298 to 232,271 in the first six months of lockdown. 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists also surveyed almost 700 of its members and six in 10 said that they were handling more emergency cases than before the first lockdown.

The most recent NHS figures available, from July, show that they had 2,276 more emergency referrals for mental health services than last July. 

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Likewise the London Ambulance Service saw a 68% rise in the number of attempted suicides and suicides it attended since the first lockdown in March. 

It attended 37 mental health emergencies a day in October, a big jump from the 22 they were attending during the same period last year. 

President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dr Adrian James told the Telegraph: ‘We have been running at full pelt. Our services before Covid were already stretched. All the indications are that there is going to be a big surge – we refer to it as a tsunami – of mental illness as a result of the pandemic.’

Last month the NHS said it would dedicate £15 million to supporting their employees’ mental health during the pandemic. 

The Government have allocated £27 million to charity Think Ahead to train 480 mental health professionals in September so they can help treat over 10,000 patients. 

A group of 42 mental health experts signed an open letter to the Government warning that a lockdown designed to prevent deaths would ‘also cause further deaths’, the Daily Mail reported. 

The letter said more deaths would happen ‘not only from other physical diseases like cancer but from alcoholism, addiction and suicide – which have already been soaring this year.

‘It will also lead to intense loneliness and depression and in older people these are killers, closely linked to poor physical health.

‘Ironically, this will make them all the more vulnerable to Covid.’

Mental health charities and experts have appealed for more funding, asking for at least £200 million.

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