Without doubt, the onset of pandemic restrictions and the rapid changes brought about in services caused disruption to some participant’s sense of support and security. This sense of uncertainty frequently contributed to a downturn in mental health and an increase in symptoms of anxiety. This seemed to be particularly caused by:
- unease about the threat of COVID in general
- a sense of isolation due to lack of face to face meetings
- frustration at perceived lack of services available to them
A few spoke of a perceived drop in personal support levels. This sense of isolation was exacerbated by the fact that staff were having to enforce new restrictions, which perhaps changed client perceptions of their role. However, participants who spoke of the staff having “less time” were fully aware that this was through no fault of their support teams, and recognised that the pandemic had created extra pressures for everyone.
I’m missing just a wee bit of help and support aye, I know I can still get it, but it’s no the same (M, 31)
However, some participants noted improvement in their mental health. These cases were usually linked to a perception that the pandemic was a “decisive moment” for them to seek treatment.
My mental health has got a lot better, I mean I was thinking, you know, especially when my relationship fell apart, and I ended up … using heroin and crack cocaine … I felt like I’d nothing round me, that was terrible, but I’m not getting back to the way that I always was before (M, 50)
Generally, it seemed that those who did not feel they were coping were those least likely to have access to, or be comfortable with, communication technology.
It’s just a nightmare, I hate it, I hate technology, I always, I hated it from day one. (M, 43)
Conversely those who had access to technology to keep in touch (often those in Recovery communities) felt support through online groups. One person noted that they had access to wider support:
… that helps me as well, the Zoom meetings, because you can go into a Zoom meeting 24/7 basically, you could be anywhere in the world sort of thing, it doesn’t really matter, so it’s like talking to somebody next door really, you know, it, you can go into them whenever you feel like, sort of thing, if you feel a wee bit low or you feel a wee bit maybe, an urge or a temptation or anything like that, there’s always a Zoom meeting there, and it’s open and you’re always welcome in, so I’ve found that quite good as well, I found myself in meetings in Boston and things like that.