While some patients with existing mental health problems became more paranoid as a result of fears about Covid, other patients who contracted the virus, and those who underwent intensive care treatment, were left suffering post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
“Covid-19 in itself causes mental health problems,” Dr James said. “The more people who are infected, the more people will be ventilated, the more people will have PTSD, the more grief reactions we will have.”
Still more people were left suffering anxiety and depression through isolation in lockdown, with others bereaved in traumatic circumstances, he said.
“You have got very complex grief reactions, you’ve got people who haven’t been able to say goodbye to people,” he said. “Their last contact with somebody was putting their hand on a glass pane in a care home.”
Psychiatrists are particularly fearful about the impact of lockdown on children, with NHS data showing a 50 per cent rise in the number suffering from problems such as anxiety and depression.
Dr Ben Shooter, a consultant psychiatrist in Powys, said lockdown had “destabilised” many people without any history of mental health problems, as well as those who were already struggling, and voiced particular concern about the impact of isolation, especially on the young.
“I think we’ve vastly underestimated the impact of this on a whole generation of children,” he said. “Some of these effects may last a lifetime.
“All of us, to some extent, will feel the effects of this – the loss of those everyday social connections, the stress, the low-level anxiety, being off work, school, in some cases losing jobs. All of it adds up to a constant attack on our mental well-being.”
Childline said it had received nearly 43,000 calls from young people reaching out for help with their mental health since coronavirus restrictions were first introduced.
The children’s charity NSPCC, which runs the helpline, said counsellors had heard from children who were feeling isolated, anxious and insecure after being cut off from important support networks.