From missed cancer diagnoses to suicidal thoughts to eating disorders – the cost of lockdowns cannot be forgotten

We’re back from our Easter break and are bringing you the sixth in our series of seven articles cataloguing the many testimonies we received about experiences of the lockdowns. If you would like to provide a testimony please send it to us at Full anonymity is assured.

“My Dad was basically told to put up with it… when finally sent for tests his cancer markers were off the scale and he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer…”

“A WEEK BEFORE the first lockdown in March 2020, my 80-year-old Mum who had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma rang for an ambulance as she was getting weaker. Nine hours later after several phone calls to the hospital, an ambulance arrived. They didn’t want to take her in via A&E because of Covid and it took more calls to the hospital before they agreed to admit her directly to a ward. She died 36 hours later. There were only seven of us at her cremation, not allowed to sit near each other or hug.

My Dad, also 80 years but didn’t live with Mum, had been in pain for a nearly a year before the first lockdown and he was basically told to put up with it. He missed his annual check-up around his 81st birthday in June 2020 because of lockdown/Covid. With continuing pain that was taking its toll, he was finally sent for an x-ray, scan and blood test in September. His cancer markers were off-the-scale and he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

We have hardly seen him since then, missing so much valuable family time. I really hope we get to spend time with him soon.”

“My husband, under immense pressure trying to keep 200 employees in work, suffered a stroke… our child became suicidal as a result…”

“THROUGHOUT LOCKDOWN my husband, who heads a family business, has been under immense pressure in trying to keep all his 200 or so employees in work, whilst keeping the business afloat in spite of decreased sales, and dealing with the impact of Covid measures on staff working from home and social distancing in the warehouse for key workers. This reached a peak around Christmas with the added impact of Brexit causing problems with imports and exports – an ongoing issue.

In early January, a week into Lockdown 3, my husband suffered a mild stroke which rendered him unable to work for around a month. This has had huge knock-on effects both at work and at home.

We have four teenage kids; one of them, already mentally suffering from lockdowns, reacted very badly to my husband’s sudden illness, and became suicidal. We tried to get help through the NHS but it was impossible to get NHS counselling because demand for kids’ mental health services was so high. We are now paying for a private counsellor who is only available over Zoom, which is far from ideal with six of us in the house, but is our only option.

On Tuesday all the kids were back in school but on Wednesday, due to one person testing positive in my suicidal child’s year, the entire year was sent home. Again, he has reacted terribly badly, and we are extremely concerned for his safety. And my husband’s health continues to be very poor both physically and mentally because of the stress he is under. The other kids are trying so hard to stay positive and get through this, but it is devastating to see them beginning to unravel, and yet, there is very little I can do!

The solution is quite obviously to bring back the ‘old normal’ immediately: this would save the business, take pressure off my husband, let my child have face-to-face therapy, and enable all the kids to have vital social interaction with their teenage friends rather than to have everything brewing in a toxic boiling pot.

On the bright side, the return to school – though interrupted – has already brought considerable relief to us all. Which just shows, to me, the importance of lifting lockdown.”

“We are locking down but at what cost? What incalculable cost to an entire generation?”

“I AM 55 and thankfully have never suffered from depression and anxiety before, despite life throwing various curve balls at me, I always find the silver lining in every cloud and am fortunate to be a glass-half-full person. 

The lockdowns have pushed my mental health to an extreme. I am anxious and depressed a lot of the time. Lack motivation to work and carry out tasks and need 9-to-10 hours sleep just to function. I was even suicidal last year and spent three nights working out how I could kill myself. I have NEVER EVER felt like this before.

I worry all the time for my young adult children and their futures. The one that is working from home is under unprecedented pressure and has taken hardly any holiday so is burnt out. With rising youth unemployment, they know they are lucky to have jobs.  My youngest is furloughed from hospitality. She has a history of severe depression and addiction. Cut off from all the things that are good for you – social interaction, seeing friends to support you, going to the gym, group exercise like netball have all gone. 

Days after endless days stretch out to be filled with nothingness and a grim future ahead.

I have a friend whose child relapsed – hardly surprising. I have another friend whose teenage daughter has developed an eating disorder during the last year. My son has a colleague who took an attempted overdose last year through loneliness. These are only a handful of stories.

We are locking down but at what cost? What incalculable cost to an entire generation? As a parent of this generation I could weep, and often do, what are we doing to them and their futures?”

“Lockdown triggered panic attacks in my 18-year-old, she is now on anxiety medication…”

“MY 18-YEAR-OLD has been massively impacted by the lockdowns.

My child has experienced immense anxiety and many panic attacks, so much so, she has been prescribed with anxiety medication and is now in private therapy because of long waiting lists. The uncertainty of what has been happening – in college from Sept 2019 to March 2020; home from March to July 2020; back in college Sept to Dec 2020 and then back at home – has been extremely hard.

During Sept 20 and Dec 20 she developed anxiety and the panic attacks… she got behind in her school work and there seemed to be no understanding or help and support until I demanded it. Her college course should have been exciting and interactive with lots of teamwork (a Film course) however it has become tedious and a chore as it is now all written.

She does long hours over Zoom with her lessons as well as lots of homework. There is no respite from the screen. She doesn’t sleep very well and is becoming mentally and physically exhausted.

Now with no exams she seems to be being allocated lots more work in order to gain the qualifications. I know my daughter is one of many students that is struggling.”

“My eating disorder has come back… everything that made life worth living is gone…”

“I WAS IN EUROPE in March 2020 when the government locked the country down.

Despite no orders to ban flights or close airports my plane was cancelled and I worried I would not be able to return home.

The British Embassy was of no assistance at all and it was an extremely stressful time. I managed to secure a flight home eventually. Following return and the escalation in the UK, however, I found myself increasingly unable to cope psychologically with the situation and ended up self-medicating heavily with alcohol and on prescription anti-anxiety medication.

This continued until very recently. I still find the situation very challenging and have experienced a relapse with an eating disorder. I have frequently experienced suicidal thoughts. I am very fortunate in that I am able to work from home, have a nice home and a partner who is still in work.

My eldest child and her partner were made redundant, luckily I was able to support them through this. I cannot imagine the struggles for people in worse social and environmental situations. Daily life is reduced to isolation and the endless stream of work followed by nothingness. There is little escape, only being found in the few moments of joy with my pre-teen daughter. This is only when I am not struggling to get her out of bed to have her sat alone in her room in front of a screen all day, bored and unchallenged. I am seeing her slowly disengage from education.

Everything that made life worth living is gone, social-ness, a hug from a friend, a laugh over a drink, a nice meal, a good workout, planning a holiday, planning a future, all taken, not by the virus but by the decisions made in response to it.

Every day I pretend that life is good, I faithfully put on my (hypothetical) mask which hides my sadness, I play at being a mum to make sure my child does not worry, she does not feel hopeless like me, I pray (because what else is left?) that she is not going to be burdened with a life hardly worth living because of the current situation. Every day I believe myself less.”

To read more Testimonies go to Part 1 here / Part 2 here / Part 3 here / Part 4 here and Part 5 here.

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Photo of cancer scan discussion by auremar from Adobe Stock