Over 8 weeks between April and June 2020, 15 members of the public who provide support to ARC NWC research logged their experiences of lockdown and how it was impacting them, their families and local communities.
They wrote about the effects on their mental well-being resulting from lockdown restrictions, losing their day-to-day routines and not being able to see family and friends.
Comments included: ‘I have realised this week how big an impact lockdown is having on my mental health. I am trying really hard to be optimistic but it’s difficult.’
‘Our family relationships are very good. However the feelings of loss at not being able to be together physically is profound.’
One participant in the study – who was categorised as ‘vulnerable’ and sent letters about the need to shield – described how this had increased their anxiety.
“Receiving all these communications about being so vulnerable has made me more worried about my condition than I have felt for a very long time. Always being very positive, it has led to a knock to my confidence.”
The diaries also highlighted the positive ways people have coped with the challenges brought about by the pandemic, such as adapting to online and remote ways of communicating.
“I have used zoom for meetings and really enjoying it as feel like I am back to being part of team or group it is really nice.”
“Have started a Saturday morning coffee call with 2 friends who live elsewhere in England…it has become a lifeline.”
Diarists talked about the lack of clarity and confusion in messages particularly when messages where changed. Several diarists also felt there was a shift of responsibility onto individuals once the public message was adapted from ‘stay home’ to ‘stay alert’.
One participant asked “is it our fault if things go wrong because we weren’t alert enough?”
Dr Emma Halliday, Senior Research Fellow from the project, said the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown would no doubt be a period of time that future researchers and historians look back on with great interest.
She said: “Although the study was relatively small scale, the public advisors recorded a range of valuable insights in their diaries. It is not only a piece of history about the pandemic recorded in ‘real time’, but also gives us insights about the health and social consequences of the pandemic in communities, which can inform practice and future research.”
For more details of the research bites and findings of the research which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) are available in full on the NIHR ARC NWC website.