5. Mental health impacts of lockdown
The mental health impact of lockdown was a significant concern for the majority of organisations. Services reported that, in many cases, those with pre-existing mental health conditions were negatively affected, with anxiety and depression being exacerbated by isolation and living with domestic abuse. Services also report more general reports of low mood, depression and isolation among clients. In the latter weeks of lockdown, organisations reported significant increases in suicidal ideation amongst clients. In some cases, services made direct reports to police/ambulance services as clients were attempting suicide or self-harm during calls. In response to this identified need, many services increased the number and frequency of welfare calls they made to their clients.
Some domestic abuse support staff report experiencing vicarious trauma. After the initial two weeks of lockdown, following organisational processes and remote working being agreed, a number of services communicated concerns about the impact of vicarious trauma on staff because they were engaging with distressed clients, working alone without the usual support of colleagues, "bringing [trauma] into their home" and unable to separate the spaces of work and home. A number of organisations introduced additional guidance, training and therapeutic inputs (such as mental health first aid or mindfulness and yoga sessions) to staff and volunteers to deal with the impact of clients' mental health deterioration while in lockdown.