21:32 GMT18 September 2020
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    The United Kingdom is experiencing an unprecedented rise in mental health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic the Office for National Statistics indicated earlier this year. This follows the government's lockdown measures, introduced in March to prevent the spread of the virus, preventing widespread social contact.

    The UK eating disorder charity, 'Beat', reported Wednesday that it has seen a 97% spike in its helpline usage since last year.

    The charity claims that the coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on those afflicted with an eating disorder, with 28% of people phoning into the helpline between May and July 2020 alone.

    Concerns often raised include not having access to safe foods or shops to diminished access to treatment, anxiety surrounding the lifting of lockdown measures, and confusion around official advice.

    "During lockdown, a common feeling which came up again and again during the calls I took was one of desperation: from the inability to find foods they needed to the prospect of being cooped up in one space without their usual coping mechanisms", said Hannah, a Helpline team member.
    "However, I also saw that the support groups became places many people returned to, and still do. I am in awe of the bravery, openness, and honesty of those using the groups, who were able to get so much from them whilst also holding each other up through such a difficult time", she added.

    Caroline Price, Beat’s Director of Services, said that the past few months have been "devastating" for many people who are affected by eating disorders.

    "They have had to adjust to extreme changes to their treatment arrangements, and for many, a severely reduced support network"
    "Most worryingly, we are hearing from more and more people coming forward for the first time because of coronavirus, either from relapsing or realising they have become unwell".

    Price said reassured those in need that the helpline is "here no matter what stage they are at, from feeling concerned about their health for the first time to coping with new challenges in recovery".

    "Whilst we diverted our efforts to frontline services during lockdown, like so many other charities we had to prepare for a drop in income. These new services will allow us to support so many more people at such a critical time, and we are extremely grateful for the Lottery’s extra investment", she said

    A spokesman for the charity said they expanded services to effectively respond to the rising demand, including coronavirus support group 'The Sanctuary'.

    A National Health Crisis

    This comes as Brits are also drinking and smoking cannabis in increasing numbers amid the pandemic, a leading study of drug behaviour revealed.

    48% of British respondents to the Global Drug Survey (GDS) said that they were drinking more alcohol than prior to the coronavirus outbreak, while 44% of cannabis users said they were using the drug more.

    The study found that 40% of drinkers said their increased alcohol intake was due to stress, 27% because of loneliness, with 29% saying that they were depressed.

    In July, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK's average happiness and life satisfaction had dropped for the first time in a decade. 

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    mental health, COVID-19, coronavirus
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