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Mental health issues on the rise amid pandemic

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Over a quarter of freelancers reported having “poor” or “very poor” mental health in a recent survey by a trade body for self-employed individuals.

The research, by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), found that the number of freelancers experiencing poor mental health had increased from six per cent to twenty-six per cent during the covid-19 pandemic, a rise of three hundred per cent.

Accordingly, the number of people who said they are in “good” or “excellent” mental health has dropped from sixty-eight per cent to thirty-nine per cent since the beginning of the pandemic. Women and freelancers in the 16-34 age group were the worst affected.

Nearly a third (thirty-two per cent) of freelancers reported feeling highly-stressed, with half of those feeling depressed or anxious as a result. Forty-seven per cent of stressed freelancers said they were losing sleep because of worry and forty-six per cent said they felt a reduction in their confidence and energy. Twenty-two per cent said they had lost clients due to job-related stress.

To counter stress, sixty-seven per cent of freelancers said they made time to exercise, and half also said they make sure they get enough sleep and make time for hobbies and entertainment to support their mental health. Forty-nine per cent said that they try to maintain a healthy diet to boost their mental health.

However, few freelancers reported seeking external help for stress or mental health issues. Only seventeen per cent said they had accessed support for their mental health during the pandemic, including: online information and advice (twelve per cent), counselling or therapy sessions (seven per cent) and mental health helplines (one per cent).

“Lockdown and the pandemic have clearly shaken the mental health of the freelancing sector,” said Chloé Jepps, head of research at IPSE. “Before the pandemic, many people went freelance for the freedom and flexibility.

“Now, however, with financial worries mounting and not enough support from government, one in four freelancers are struggling with their mental health. This is a simmering crisis for freelancers across the UK – and one that government and industry have to confront.

“One of the most practical things government can do is help stave off the financial worries of freelancers and the self-employed, since this sector has been hit harder than most by lockdown and the pandemic. The government should make sure there is no cliff-edge to its support schemes and that any further support is open to all the self-employed, not just a proportion.

“We also believe it is vital government and industry begin promoting mental health advice and guidance that is tailored to freelancers. This essential and large part of the workforce has not had the mental health support it needs and in the current financial turmoil, that need is more urgent than ever.”

14th September 2020.