EXPERTS fear another pandemic is on the horizon, this time one impacting our mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation in Scotland says people are doing less of the things that keep a check on our anxiety and wellbeing because they haven’t got enough cash.
New research from the charity’s has revealed a third of Scots have lost sleep over the cost-of-living crisis, nearly a quarter are seeing friends less and 17 per cent have dropped a hobby.
The organisation has now set out a raft of recommendations for the Scottish Government in a bid to halt a looming crisis.
Shari McDaid, Head of Evidence and Impact at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis on public mental health could be on a par or worse than the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are facing a public mental health emergency and we need our governments to take action with the same urgency as they did for the pandemic.”
The study, titled Mental Health and the cost-of-living crisis: Another pandemic in the making?, also reveals 12 per cent of Scots have exercised less often due to concerns about personal finances while 41 per cent haven’t put the heating on over fears of high bills .
Charity bosses say the priority must now be to make sure cash support schemes are available to all who need them to prevent people experiencing poverty and financial stress as well as related mental health problems.
And the experts insist financial help announced to date doesn’t go far enough to meet the needs of Scots on low incomes, who are continuing to go without essentials such as food and heating.
Shari said: “We know that poverty and financial stress put people at increased risk of mental health problems. The unaffordable costs of basic living essentials are causing more and more people to fall into poverty or experience financial stress, and we are seeing ‘red flag’ behaviours.
“While they may seem like little things, not getting good quality sleep, not being able to spend time with friends and family, and not exercising are all detrimental to our mental health.
“We need these things to have good mental health and wellbeing but if you’re worried about being able to afford your energy bills or you can’t afford the transport to visit your friends and family, these healthy behaviours are difficult to maintain.
“We need our governments to step up their efforts to support people to live well and have good mental health.”
Recommendations to the government include increasing funding for community support organisations and preventing financial stress by increasing income supports and advice.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
EXPERTS from The Mental Health Foundation have pulled together tips for getting through the cost-of-living crisis while looking after your wellbeing.
One of the main things that can add to stress is a pile of unopened bills. We know it won’t go away on its own, but we can sometimes be too frightened even to open the envelope.
Make sure that you’re getting any benefits you’re entitled to. There may be help you don’t even know about, so a call to your local Citizens Advice is a good first step. Your local council may also be able to help with grants or loans.
HELP AT HAND
Many people are already aware of food banks. Still, there are similar kinds of support in our communities that run school uniform banks and toy libraries, where second-hand items are available for people who need them.
Your local library is also an excellent place to look for community resources. If you are having problems with housing or homelessness, charity Shelter is there to help.
GET SOME SLEEP
Lack of a good sleep will also make everything feel much worse.
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day to create a routine and avoid afternoon naps.Keeping the bedroom curtains open during the day and closed at night will also help your body clock know what’s going on. And hit the off button on mobile devices – get back to reading a book or magazine before you nod off.
If you’re confident managing your finances, you’ve probably learned some lessons along the way. Passing these lessons on to others is a great way to help.
Volunteering is also a really practical way to help others. Think about contacting your local food bank to see if they need help. Acts of kindness can make everyone feel better, including you.
We all know the news is mostly bad, and social media can make the feelings of doom and gloom even worse.
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with people, but inevitably, people share stories or their feelings about the world, which can leave us feeling anxious. Try to keep aware of your mood when you’re online or watching TV and, if you start to feel down, reach for the off switch.
They also include requiring all government departments to assess the mental health impact of decisions that address the cost-of-living crisis and ensuring that frontline workers, in areas like health and social care as well as energy and telecoms companies, are trained to respond effectively to the mental health effects of financial stress and strain.
The charity reported in November that 40 per cent of adults in Scotland were feeling anxious, 33 per cent feeling stressed, and 14 per cent feeling hopeless about their financial circumstances.