Lockdown ‘intensifying mental ill health among unemployed’

A survey found one in six unemployed people have had suicidal thoughts.

The mental health of unemployed Scots has been hit by the coronavirus lockdown, a study suggests, with one in six having suicidal thoughts.

Research into the mental health impact of the coronavirus pandemic found a third of Scots (33%) in full-time work are worried about losing their jobs and 32% of all adults are concerned about their finances.

The survey of 2056 Scottish adults found 16% of people unemployed during lockdown have had suicidal thoughts, amid concerns of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic.

The polling, carried out during the final week of April, is part of a project to track how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health by Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, Swansea University, University of Cambridge and Queen’s University Belfast.

Professor Alec Morton, from the University of Strathclyde, said: “Our research shows the scale of the psychological trauma which the country is facing and highlights that for many, this is mediated by real concerns about how to pay the bills.

“Tragically, much of the pain is being borne by those who were struggling to get by even before the pandemic hit.

“These findings challenge us as a society to come up with a collective response which is commensurate with the scale of the challenge.”

The Mental Health Foundation is calling for the government to make the advance payment of Universal Credit a grant, rather than forcing people to repay it over the following 12 months, as part of an “economic safety net”.

Its Scottish director Lee Knifton said: “Our research is starting to reveal how the financial and employment inequalities caused and exacerbated by the pandemic are affecting people’s mental health.

“We have very concerning evidence that hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland are worrying about fundamental financial matters and their job security – both of which are closely linked to poor mental health.

“However it is also important to recognise that within the overall picture, it is people who were already unemployed at the start of the pandemic who are being most seriously affected.

“It is disturbing that more than one in six unemployed people surveyed say they have had suicidal thoughts and feelings within the last two weeks.

“Without further, rapid government action to improve people’s economic security, we can expect things to get worse, especially for the poorest.

“The financial inequalities that lead to increased and unequal rates of mental ill-health will be intensified – and the benefits of recovery and coming out of the lockdown will not be shared equally.”

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