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Covid anxiety causing people to go without food, charity says

By Jordan Davies
BBC News

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image captionRhoannon Currie said she became too anxious to leave home

Some people with mental health conditions are going hungry because of their anxiety about coronavirus, according to a charity.

Growing Space said some people would "starve themselves" rather than leave home to go to the shops.

Aneurin Bevan health board said clinicians were expecting a surge in mental health referrals this winter.

The health board is already seeing rising levels of anxiety in those with existing mental health problems.

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Rhiannon Currie, 36, has seen her anxiety increase throughout the pandemic, which has meant she has sometimes gone without food.

"I feel a lot better when I'm home because I know no-one is going to get me and nothing is going to get me," she said.

When Ms Currie is hungry, she prefers to order a supermarket delivery to her home and wait for that, which can sometimes take days, rather than leave her home.

"If I decide to go to the shop and I really need to get something I'll psych myself up to go out, or I'll think I don't feel like going out today, I'll go out tomorrow and I keep putting it off," she said.

Growing Space, which helps people with mental health conditions access food and medication, said it was expecting a wave of people needing help.

Too scared to shop

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionAnxiety is stopping some people from going to the supermarket, Bill Upham says

The charity operates horticultural therapies across the Aneurin Bevan health board area and is expanding its services to the Cardiff and Vale area because of the level of demand.

Chief executive Bill Upham said: "We know people who would starve themselves because they have been so scared to go to the shops."

"Some have been so terrified to collect their medicines that they have been having suicidal thoughts. We have been delivering food and medicines."

Amy Mitchell, divisional head of occupational therapy for mental health and learning disabilities at Aneurin Bevan health board, said there had been an increase in "crisis referrals" in the past month and rising levels of anxiety.

image captionAmy Mitchell reported a "big increase" in people who are socially isolated

But she said the increase in referrals could be for a variety of reasons.

"We've noticed quite a big increase in crisis referrals, people who are socially isolated and feeling quite depressed as a result of that.

"We're seeing more referrals at the primary care level for things like anxiety management," she said.

"We are anticipating a surge in referrals, particularly over the winter."

She added it was likely anxiety about the pandemic had meant people have struggled to access food and medication, but said a "welfare initiative" was in place to help people who were suffering.

Ahead of the winter she said: "We are trying to put measures in place so that people feel supported and they know how to access services directly."

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