Leading charities have called on the Welsh government to take action to protect against poor mental health and suicide risk for those dealing with job uncertainty as a result of the pandemic.
New research from Citizens Advice Cymru found that the pandemic has taken a toll on people's mental health, with two-thirds (67%) of people in Wales saying it had negatively affected their wellbeing.
But the impact has been worse amongst people who have been hit by the economic downturn. 9 in 10 (93%) people who lost their jobs during the crisis said they had been affected by issues like money worries, stress or anxiety, or feeling they didn't have anyone to talk to.
Samaritans Cymru are seeing significant caller concerns being expressed around mental health and illness, family and relationships, isolation and loneliness. Volunteer feedback also showed that callers are worried about the impact of the pandemic on basic needs such as food, housing and employment.
Citizens Advice Cymru and Samaritans Cymru are warning that many of the most vulnerable groups in society have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and are likely to see a longer-term impact on their lives. They are urging policy-makers to focus on tackling unemployment and poverty in order to reduce the likelihood of poor mental health and suicide risk in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Both charities welcome the commencement of the Socio-economic Duty, which comes into force today, as an important lever for improving outcomes for people who experience social and economic disadvantage.
Many people who have lost jobs or seen their hours cut during the crisis have found themselves in a difficult financial situation and are struggling to get by. That causes a huge amount of stress and anxiety, and makes it much harder for people to manage their money or look for other work. We need urgent action in Wales to address emerging issues, like debt and unemployment, which have an adverse impact on mental health.
Citizens Advice Cymru Director, Rebecca Woolley
We continue to call for a centralised strategy for poverty which promotes cross-governmental and cross sectoral involvement in Wales. The current coronavirus outbreak is most detrimental to those in the most difficult circumstances, for example those struggling with debt or unemployment. We need to be prepared as a nation, to support those who are most in need both now and in the future. These efforts to help those experiencing the effects of poverty should be seen a crucial form of suicide prevention.
Executive Director for Samaritans Cymru, Sarah Stone
Notes to editors
- For information or for media requests from Citizens Advice Cymru contact Rob Palmizi on [email protected]
- For information or for media requests from Samaritans Cymru contact Emma Gooding on [email protected]
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2086 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22 October - 2 November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Welsh adults (aged 18+).
- Samaritans Cymru and Citizens Advice Cymru are currently working in partnership on a workplace training initiative. Due to an increase in calls from those experiencing distress, local Citizens Advice offices in Wales are receiving some awareness training from Samaritans Cymru in order to help their staff and caller concerns.
- The Socio-economic Duty comes into force in Wales on 31 March 2021. The overall aim of the duty is to ensure that specified public bodies across Wales consider how the decisions they make will help reduce inequality as a result of social and economic disadvantage. An overview of the Duty is available here.