Is Brexit ‘doing your head in’? You’re not alone, however you voted

With the news that Brexit uncertainty caused one vulnerable man to succumb to an attack of psychosis, SSZeeMedia ask, could Brexit be bad for your health? Tannice Hemming investigates.

Described as an ‘acute and transient’ psychotic episode, the BMJ’s case report is sobering reading. Occurring just a few weeks after the UK voted to leave the UK, the man reported becoming agitated and confused. He was experiencing delusions, hallucinations and extreme paranoia. According to the report, a short stay in hospital and treatment with anti-psychotics got him back into the community, well again.

Of course not all of us are affected as badly as the patient described in the BMJ, but what are the mental health concerns pertaining to our daily diet of Brexit news and the political maelstrom it’s causing?

Nurse of the year’s mental breakdown

Nurse of the year (awarded by the British Journal of Nursing) Joan Pons Laplana, who hails from Spain, spoke out today about how Brexit is impacting on his mental health, citing uncertainty and job insecurity as major stressors. He talked about the pressures that Brexit is placing on the NHS, which currently heavily relies on EU nationals for staffing. He said that many HCPs are leaving the UK, creating additional pressure on staff as well as potentially impacting on patient safety.

Medication stockpiling: what is the government doing?

The old adage that ‘nothing is as important as your health’ isn’t just about the healthcare professionals who care for you, of course. It’s about your access to medication, too. Whilst many decry the warnings about medication shortages as ‘project fear’, others who rely on medication to keep them alive are far less sanguine. One friend, who relies on insulin, is now on new medication to help her manage the anxiety around potential difficulties in supplies for diabetics.

The NHS have published a page answering many patients’ questions about their contingency measures, stockpiling, repeat prescriptions and Serious Shortage Protocols. Whilst the language is very tempered, anyone reading their answer to what happens if the contingency plans don’t work out (Question 7) would be forgiven for a little ripple of concern in the bowel region. Best get that checked out.

When you start to miss Noel Edmonds, you know it’s bad

Living in Kent, as I do, I can’t help but notice that those who regularly traverse the coast-bound sections of motorway are greeted with gantry signs notifying drivers, in glowing capital letters, ‘freight papers to EU may change Nov 1 – please check’. How vague. I’m so glad I’m not in the business of import/export. Radio and TV adverts fill the airwaves with nebulous instructions to ‘get ready for Brexit’, yet there seems an absolute dearth of real facts or clarity on what is actually going to happen – deal or no deal.

Remember the days when ‘Deal or No Deal’ simply meant Noel Edmonds surrounded by red boxes and discussions of his beliefs in Cosmic Ordering? Oh how I wish my Cosmic Order of a happy ending to the Brexit debate had come true in 2016. Imploring my fellow citizens to vote remain – if only because if we voted leave, we’d never hear the bloody end of it – clearly didn’t work.

The uncertainty that we face, now less than a month away from the big scary Halloween party that will (we assume) be Brexit day, is causing so many of us difficulties, though. Whilst we haven’t yet left, the economic implications of quieter businesses are rippling through the UK.

Even counting sheep won’t let you rest easy

Back in March, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reported that they’d noted a huge surge in calls from extremely distressed farmers. Still struggling from the ‘Beast from the East’ from the year before, which was swiftly followed by a summer drought, many of the farmers were being placed on suicide watch. Construction Manager Magazine also took the time, just last week, to warn those in their industry to pay close attention to staff morale in an already strained industry, detailing the best way to care for mental health in the workplace.

40% of us, according to a poll conducted in March, said that thoughts of Brexit were making us feel ‘powerless’, ‘angry’ and ‘anxious’. A further 19 per cent of us admitted that Brexit was fracturing relationships with our friends and family too, causing regular disagreements.

Being powerful doesn’t help, either

Whilst a third of us are feeling major concern about our future as well as utterly impotent in our rage (whichever way we voted), I do feel for the huge amount of pressure our MPs are undergoing. It’s difficult enough consuming a daily diet of Brexit shenanigans – imagine how daunting it feels to have a hand in it all.

In April, Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans spoke out about the toll Brexit was having on MPs and said it was causing him sleepless early mornings. Mental Health Charity Mind have offered support to MPs, whilst Evans told the BBC “it’s probably having an impact on MPs more than they would care to admit.”

Unheard Youth

According to Full Fact, around 70% of young people voted to Remain and 82% of them would vote to Remain if asked again. However, of course, no one who was born in this century even had a chance to vote. Young people cite financial security and living costs as main Brexit concerns.

“Whatever your views on Brexit, times of change and uncertainty can be unsettling – and this can have a big impact on young people’s mental health,” according to Dr Marc Bush, Policy Director for Mental Health Organisation, Young Minds, talking to Glamour Magazine. “Thanks to the internet and social media, young people today have more access than ever before to news, opinions and debate. While this is a positive thing, it can also mean that young people are bombarded with bad news stories, anger, polarised views and warnings about the future.”

How to tackle Brexit anxiety

If Brexit is exacerbating existing anxiety, affecting your sleep or causing rifts in your social circles, as it is for a purported one in three 18-30 year olds (Who Got the Brexit Blues, LSE, 2019), what can you do? Charity mentalhealth.org.uk have published a useful guide to help you reduce your vulnerability.

They suggest you “stay informed, but be aware of your limits”, take steps to “engage with your community in a meaningful way” and “empower your voice”. They also advise you don’t hide away your feelings; to seek advice on practical matters you’re worried about, like employment prospects or housing issues.

Finally, they remind us that not everything we read is necessarily true and that exaggeration is rife, whatever your standpoint. Perhaps that’s something we can all agree on. As well as how annoying it is when it’s pronounced Breggzit. There’s a damn X in it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by Brexit, or indeed anything else, please do seek help. You can reach the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123 – it’s completely free to call them and they will listen, impartially and without judgement. Call them now if you need someone to listen, whatever you’re going through. https://www.samaritans.org

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