Over 60 percent of Scots say mental health affected by pandemic

Calls have been made for a complete redesign of mental health support in Scotland, as a recent survey from the Edinburgh Evening News and The Scotsman revealed that over 60 percent of Scots feel their mental health has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Big Conversation Survey asked about the effects of lockdown.
The Big Conversation Survey asked about the effects of lockdown.

The country’s support system was already under strain before lockdown and will struggle to provide for those who need help without an overhaul, said mental health charity SAMH.

“It is clear that the pandemic has affected people’s mental health and caused serious problems for people who need mental health services,” said Carolyn Lochhead, Head of Communications and Public Affairs.

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“We require an ambitious and well-resourced plan to redesign mental health support in Scotland, a system that was already under stress before the pandemic, if we are to ensure that people receive the help they need, when they need it.”

The Big Conversation survey also revealed that most Scots are not comfortable going into work or taking public transport in the current climate, and fear that the ‘rule of six’ will be ineffective in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

The survey was taken over two weeks from September 14, and asked respondents about their experiences of the pandemic and their hopes for the ‘new normal’ coming out of it.

Some 18 percent of people in Scotland said their mental health had been strongly affected by the pandemic, while over 43 percent said they had been slightly affected. Just 16 percent said their mental health had not been affected at all.

Only 34 percent said they would feel comfortable going into their place of work, while fewer than 25 percent said they would be happy taking public transport.

However, the majority feel comfortable visiting family, going to pubs, cafes, or restaurants and going to shops. Most said they did not feel comfortable going to the cinema, to the theatre or to see live music, or to a festival or sports event.

Respondents were also questioned about their personal finances, and 34 percent said they were concerned about their job security or income from paid work, while 43 percent were concerned about their personal or household finances.

More than half of respondents (53 percent) have cut back on spending since the start of the pandemic.

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While 42 percent said they consider it important to really make an effort with Christmas this year, the majority also expect to spend less than usual during the festive period.

Almost 70 percent said the Christmas period will be a good opportunity to support local businesses.

The survey was launched on September 14, just as the new ‘rule of six’ came into force.

Responding in the following two weeks, 87 percent of Scots said they were concerned about the impact of a second wave of Covid-19 in the next few months, with 61 percent saying they were very concerned.

However, most people (59 percent) said they thought the ‘rule of six’ was not likely to be effective in reducing the chances of a second wave.

We also asked scots to re-evaluate what matters most to them and how they want their society to look in the future.

We asked what has changed since lockdown - and what the new society which emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic should look like to benefit us all, including priorities around healthcare, government spending and tourism in the future.

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An unprecedented shift towards working from home was forced on us because of the lockdown, but we asked respondents whether they would like to consider this change from the standard model of office working long term.

For many people the answer was yes, as 72 percent said that less emphasis on office or site-based working and more flexibility to work from home is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to them going forward.

We also asked about how people view their local city and town centres.

The responses to this question were split, with 51 percent saying they considered a re-imagining of town and city centres with less emphasis on shopping to be important or very important in the wake of the pandemic, while 41 percent thought this would be not important or not important at all.

The results were much more definite when it came to transport issues, as 64 percent said action to encourage more journeys by foot, bike and public transport is important, and over 56 percent said they considered action to reduce the number of journeys by car important.

Tourism has been a big topic for discussion during the pandemic, with flights grounded and the summer festivals cancelled or moved online for the first time ever.

We asked readers whether the value they place on tourism has changed as a result of the pandemic.

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Just over 35 percent of people said that they now value tourism more, while 17 percent of people said they value it less.

However, the largest group, 42 percent, said there has been no change to how they view tourism, despite the huge reckoning which has occurred.

More in-depth results from the Big Conversation Survey will be released in due course.

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