Warlike talk of Covid-19 battle could shame people into avoiding NHS, charity warns

Using stoic warlike language to describe the coronavirus pandemic is putting people off using the NHS even while beds lie empty, a mental health charity has warned.

There are fears those in need are afraid to “let the side down” in what is perceived as a national battle against the infection.

Describing the health crisis as a “war” or “battle” that needs to be fought by people in the UK could make them stoically reluctant to seek help.  

The warning comes as thousands of hospital beds lie empty across the country, and A&E admissions have fallen dramatically due to efforts to relieve pressure on the NHS. 

Suicide Crisis has warned that framing the response to Covid-19 as a brave battle makes the vulnerable averse to filling these empty beds and being a “burden” to the health service, even when they are in desperate need.

The charity has cautioned that steadfast refusal to break an emerging unwritten national code and suffer the “shame and guilt” of pressuring the NHS causes “extreme mental suffering” for those requiring care.

Suicide Crisis chief executive Joy Hibbins said: “There is a sense in which we are all trying to pull together in the national interest and in particular to defeat the virus.

“For some people, that will help create a feeling of unity and shared purpose. 

“However, some people may feel that they are ‘letting the side down’ if they acknowledge that they are struggling and need help.

“There are lots of references to being ‘strong’. 

“If we are all feeling that we need to be strong, then it can make it harder to seek help, or show vulnerability.”

While those in need “don’t want to burden the NHS”, thousands of beds are thought to be empty, and A&E admission have been reduced.  Figures from the NHS dashboard have indicated that almost 40,000 beds could be empty. 

Stoically refusing to seek care amid national talk of martial strength and unity has created severe strain.

Suicide Crisis has revealed a 40% rise in people getting in touch when it was announced the lockdown would be extended.

It comes as a survey by the charity Rethink Mental Illness found that 80% of respondents with mental illness said the Covid-19 outbreak had caused their mental health to deteriorate.

Not using the NHS could be creating a new mental health crisis, experts have warned.

Rethink chief executive Mark Winstanley said: “Because of the crisis, people simply can’t access what they could before and so we need the whole mental health sector to step in to help people whose problems are escalating and are becoming isolated and remote.”

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