We must not lose out to pandemic fatigue

Dreich day, melancholic mood. Today has not been ok; and time, it seems, is not necessarily a good healer. At least not when it comes to this pandemic. 

As infection levels rise; and restrictions are tightened, it’s little surprise many of us are fed up, including myself. Indeed, in a weary population, pandemic fatigue is a new danger, compounding the presence of the virus. Add in the shorter days; and winter promises to be both long and difficult.

There is little doubt that good mental health is a growing casualty of this pandemic. Rates of depression have doubled, with mental health charity MIND saying, “We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health – whether that’s bereavement, the devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, or the recession we are now in.”

Recently, CNN warned about a second wave of mental health devastation, while the World Health Organisation says that COVID-19 is disrupting mental health services in most countries.

Under more normal circumstances, the voluntary sector is a valuable counter force against mental ill health; and of course it still is. But currently the challenge is so much greater. Many voluntary sector staff and volunteers are working from home, while services such as counselling or befriending, are now being delivered online or by telephone. 

But the fact remains, people need voluntary services in their lives, as was well illustrated by EVOC’s report last year called Mind the Craic. Whats more, voluntary services, by supporting people in need, are also helping with mental health and wellbeing. 

Yet the need for services has never been greater. Existing stressors associated with social issues such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing, social isolation or long-term physical health problems are intensified by this pandemic

So the voluntary sector has much to do. We witnessed widespread solidarity earlier in the pandemic when communities came together to support the vulnerable. There is clearly a willingness to help each other, but can we come out of this stronger? Voluntary organisations need to engage with local communities, but as NCVO’s Karl Wilding said recently, “We are not as organised as we could be, or should be”.

So let’s hope we can all stay the course, and stand beside our communities. Otherwise the gains made back in March and April will be lost to pandemic fatigue.

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