We’ve today published our inaugural Mindometer report into the immediate and future impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s mental health, based on the first-hand experiences of our members.

Thank you to the 4,923 members who took part in the survey, which has produced a contrasting picture of a negative mental health legacy but an improved openness among the population to seek help when needed.

The report has been covered extensively in the media, with our members and senior staff being interviewed for national and regional radio, TV, newspapers and websites.

More than half of our members (51%) believe we’ll continue to see the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health for up to five years, with a further third (36%) believing the impact could last even longer.

93% of our members have perceived an increased mental strain in the general population. Anxiety (87%), stress/feeling overwhelmed (82%) and loneliness/social isolation (72%) were the top three most commonly presented problems, and members also reported people presenting with mental health issues for the first time in their lives.

  • Almost half (46%) of members say incidences of trauma have increased
  • A quarter (26%) have seen an increase in eating disorders
  • Two-thirds (65%) of members have seen an increase in relationship pressures and breakdowns
  • A fifth (20%) of members reported seeing an increase in addiction, addictive behaviours to substances or substance misuse,
  • 7% have seen an increase in addiction to the internet. One in 20 (5%) also reported seeing an increase in gaming addiction
  • A quarter (26%) of our members have seen an increase in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Counselling support

The pandemic has also seen more people seek the support they need through counselling and psychotherapy. Indeed, 72% of our members believe people are now more open to having therapy than they were before the pandemic, an important measure in banishing the stigma that still surrounds poor mental health.

Additionally, 82% of therapists state online or remote working has made therapy more accessible to both existing clients and people seeking therapy for the first time. This is due to the greater flexibility and choice to prospective clients, who can pick from therapists from all over the country.

While this accessibility to counselling is welcomed, 80% of the respondents say demand for therapy is either full or over capacity at the practice or service they work in. This could result in longer waiting lists and a lag in people getting the help they need.

Hadyn Williams, our Chief Executive, said: “While our therapists were getting to grips with the huge mental health challenges facing the general population, their skills, expertise and resilience over the last year have undoubtedly changed lives.

“Our Mindometer survey has given us a unique opportunity to look at the expert insights from our therapists into the effect of lockdown and future challenges to the UK general population’s mental health.

“The report findings underline just how critical it is to have access to therapeutic support in the nation’s mental health recovery.

“We must continue to strive to increase access to therapy to all who need support.” 

Increase in demand for therapy

71% of our members reported an increase in the number of enquiries or referrals for their services since the start of the pandemic, of which 47% saw an increase in the number of sessions from existing clients.

Louise Tyler, a member based in Altrincham, said: “Social groups and activities that people relied on for connection may still be dormant, exam results are still uncertain, event and travel plans are precarious. People are fearful about jobs and businesses.

“Loss and grief are still pervasive. We can’t just bounce back magically. Even if socially, economically or health-wise we’ve been privileged enough to remain protected, we’re not immune to others suffering. There’s been and will continue to be a massive reset in how we live our lives. All these things mean that the demand for counselling is likely to remain high."

Impact on members

With the increase in demand for therapy during this challenging time, the Mindometer report explored the impact the past 15 months have had on therapists themselves. The survey found:

  • Nearly half (44%) of our members feel more stressed and overwhelmed since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Almost one in five (18%) feel more depressed or hopeless.
  • 59% of therapists have found the impact of ‘Zoom fatigue’ challenging over time.

However, despite these challenges 82% of therapists have found online therapy and being more accessible to be a positive or rewarding experience of working remotely.

Widening access to therapy

The Mindometer report highlighted the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health and, according to BACP members, this will continue to be felt for several years to come.

To meet this demand and ensure that anyone struggling with their mental health and wellbeing can access a qualified therapist, we aim to widen access to therapy through a range of settings – such as the NHS, schools and workplaces - across all four nations of the UK. The recommendations in the report include:

  1. Counselling and psychotherapy need to be integral in the UK governments’ long-term mental health response to COVID-19.
  2. Greater investment to increase access to therapy and access to a wider choice of therapies on the NHS and in community settings in all four nations of the UK.
  3. A counsellor for every secondary school, college and academy in England.
  4. Increasing access to counselling through workplaces.
  5. Increasing access to counselling for under-represented communities.

Find out more about our Mindometer report.