BREXIT: Media coverage and mental health implications

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Dr Maria Fotiadou considers the impact of Brexit, and its media coverage,
on the mental health sector, and the implications for mental health practitioners in the UK

Summary points

  • It has been reported that the uncertainty around Brexit has negatively affected the mental health in 4 out of 10 people in the UK.
  • Negative media coverage contributes to feelings of isolation and mistrust.
  • The impact can already be felt in the mental health service, which is predicting Brexit-related staff shortages by 2020.
  • Practitioners can be proactive in private sessions and public forums in helping people deal with the uncertainty.

It has been three years since the UK voted to leave the European Union with a narrow majority. Yet, at time of publication, the Brexit deadline has come and gone, and a number of other deadlines and votes have followed unheeded. Presently the British government and EU have agreed an extension until 31 October 2019, but to many this new agreement only prolongs the uncertainty of the situation.

Since the referendum, there has been no real agreement of what Brexit should look like. What once looked like a clear-cut peoples’ decision—leave or stay—has devolved into a public display that showcases an inability to secure a final agreement even within Britain itself. Instead, the UK is left with uncertainty about the proceedings, an increasing mistrust in politicians, and a sense of chaos and negativity about the future of the country.

Impact of Brexit on mental health in the UK

For many people, the media portrayal of Brexit has further reinforced a feeling of being out of control. Brexit has dominated headlines for months, even years, showcasing concerns about almost every aspect of everyday life, including trade, the economy, travel, inflation, produce and product prices.
When a nation feels uncertain about its future for a long period of time, this has an impact on people’s mental health. A YouGov study has revealed that four out of ten people reported that Brexit is affecting their mental health in a negative way. Higher levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness were among the overall findings. 44% of the respondents also reported that they expected Brexit to worsen their lives, and experts argue that this percentage may increase in the coming months.

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