On World MS Day, charities are calling for improved mental health support for shielders

As life shielding in lockdown continues, a charity has called for improved mental health support and assistance for people who are shielding this World MS Day.

Today (30 May) is World MS Day, and almost two months to the date since over 1.5 million people – including thousands of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) – were told to shield at home by the UK Government.

This call has seen many shield in isolation for 12 weeks.

#MSCONNECTIONS

The theme for this year’s World MS Day is #MSConnections, celebrating the power of community and looking at different ways of preventing loneliness.

With ongoing uncertainty on when shielders can leave their homes safely, the impact of isolation is becoming evident.

Martin, 53, lives in Somerset and has a progressive form of MS. His symptoms include spasms and mobility issues. Martin lives on his own, and his family live over 50 miles away. 

Martin explained: “I haven’t seen or spoken to another human being for ten days. 

“I used to leave the house once or twice a week and drive somewhere, but now I can’t do that. 

“Every day is the same now – I get up in the morning and sit in a chair for the whole day, then go to bed 12 hours later. I missed Easter because I didn’t even know what day it was. 

“I only live in my head, nowhere else, and as time progresses it’s getting so much harder. I feel like I’m collapsing in on myself.”

The MS Society is now calling on improved mental health support and awareness for the thousands of people living with MS, and the wider disabled community.

ISOLATION

The MS Society surveyed over 2,300 people living with MS about the pandemic – 14 per cent said they are feeling lonely, and over a third (35 per cent) said they are anxious as a result. 

Seven per cent of people surveyed are going days without speaking to anyone. 

Nick Moberly, chief executive for the MS Society, said: “Loneliness disproportionately affects over 130,000 people living with MS in the UK, and social barriers continue to leave many feeling isolated – so this crisis is amplifying what is already a real problem for our community.

“Shielding is necessary, and will be until we can better limit the spread of coronavirus. We’re doing everything we can to help but it’s vital that the government acknowledges – and takes steps to address – the potentially extreme effect of extended self-isolation.

“Absolutely critical to this will be better mental health support for everyone who needs it. It’s appalling that vulnerable people have been left to deal with this on their own for so long.”

TIME TO CHAT

If you live with MS, the MS Society have launched Time to Chat, a service supporting virtual meetings for people with MS.

Similarly, Keep in Touch is a service designed to help those who might not see anyone day to day with a regular check-in phone call, are two of the new emotional support services the MS Society has developed to replace its vital face-to-face options, which have had to stop during the lockdown.

You are not alone this World MS Day and every day after. Join the #EnableCommunity by following us on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.