We Must Work Harder to Mitigate the Psychological Legacy of Lockdown Britain

(Photo: Simply Transcend)

By Louise Cresswell – Contributor

As Omicron cases climb and we witness the familiar return of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to our screens, murmurs have once again commenced about the possibility of an impending lockdown. Despite all of this, and how much it may feel like de ja vu, we must remember that we are in a position completely different to the one we originally started in- the UK now has almost two years of policy experience in social restriction. If the government insists we must lock down again to avoid a further spike in cases, it is imperative they must affix any further restrictions with a community framework to prevent the social fallout of the last two years from being exacerbated any further.

At the ripe old age of twenty, I have lived long enough to remember both ‘freedom days’, 4th of July 2020 and the 14th of July 2021. Whilst I missed being able to travel, I must admit that I had two great summers- maybe I was ‘stuck’ in Britain, but I was relatively free to do as I pleased. As someone who likes nothing more than talking to other people (whether they want to talk to me or not) lockdown was difficult for me. The pub, the bar, the club, all provided a much-needed change of scenery from my bedroom and the warehouse at Tesco.

Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but looking back on things, the summer of 2020 didn’t carry the cynicism I witnessed all too often throughout the summer of 2021. Despite the restrictions being completely lifted this year as opposed to the partial measures of 2020, many of my friends were anxious about the future in a way I had never seen them before. We repeatedly encouraged each other to go on nights out as much as we could ‘before we end up locked in again’, and residual good moods were only further dampened by a seemingly unprompted emergence of senseless violence. Social media was awash with videos of vitriolic abuse being levied at event staff, peaking after England’s defeat in the Euros, and ultimately, just three months after the country could go clubbing again, young people in their swathes recommitted to staying indoors as part of a ‘Girls Night In’ in protest over the needle-based spiking sweeping the UK. Closer to home, many in York have been moved by the terrible images of the Middle Eastern restaurant start-up ‘Yemen Heaven’ being trashed by vandals only a matter of days before its opening. In November, as a fight broke out on the carriage of my train to London within minutes of our departure, a familiar chorus rang out across the aisle- “What the fuck is happening to this country?”.

Human beings are social creatures, and too much time alone has created a mental health crisis amongst many who would otherwise be content. For those who were already deeply unbalanced, the lack of opportunity for community intervention has only resulted in deeper social divisions and highlighted to all of us the potential for depravity within the human condition. We must protect the NHS and save lives- but the least we can demand from our government is that when implementing preventative measures, they invest in life after lockdown, and provide a contingency plan to ensure that the communities we re-emerge into are safe to live in.

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