200% more freelancers facing mental health issues – so what’s being done about it?
A new study has revealed the pandemic is having a huge impact on the mental health of freelancers and contractors, with the proportion of self-employed people battling the issue rising by a massive 200% during Covid-19.
The research, carried out by association for the self-employed, IPSE, shows the percentage of freelancers who said they suffer from mental health problems has grown from 6% to 20%. And the majority (52%) say the pandemic has seen their situation worsen.
Whether it’s anxiety or depression (71%), negative thoughts (69%), reduced energy levels (77%) or difficulty sleeping (71%), the insight also shows that mental health issues manifest themselves in different ways.
According to the trade body behind the research, these findings highlight the “hidden cost of the pandemic”, with IPSE also suggesting that the lack of support received by limited company directors – who were excluded from the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) – has contributed towards this group suffering more than others.
Poor mental health sees work suffer
What’s more, this growing problem is affecting how freelancers and contractors perform day in day out when running their businesses. Of those experiencing mental health challenges, around six in 10 (61%) struggle to focus at work, a similar number (60%) said they are becoming less productive and 14% have even been forced to delay or cancel projects due to poor mental health.
Freelancers outline ways to protect mental health
That the pandemic has resulted in such a dramatic rise in mental health problems among self-employed people is a big cause of concern – although it should be balanced out by the fact that 80% of people working for themselves told IPSE they didn’t consider it to be a problem for them personally. And while mental health can require professional help, freelancers who took part in the research outlined their top five ways for looking after their own well-being.
- Exercising (65%)
- Adopting a healthy diet (48%)
- Trying their best to get enough sleep (46%)
- Spending time on their hobbies and entertainment (46%)
- Speaking to others about how they feel (27%)
For more tips and advice, feel free to read our article, where we list 5 key ways to look after your mental health.
Government urged to focus on issue
IPSE has urged freelancers to take it upon themselves to prioritise their own mental health, but did recognise that more must be done by those in Westminster to protect self-employed workers. As part of its remit to support the independent workforce, the trade association has urged the government to explore four key areas when devising policy:
- Ensuring flexible and fair Covid-19 support as the UK emerges from lockdown
- Mental health support and policies tailored to the specific needs of freelancers
- Promoting coworking spaces, which allow for collaboration among self-employed workers
- Encouraging clients to check in on and support the mental health of freelancers they engage
Pandemic has ‘taken its toll’
Commenting on the research findings, IPSE’s Head of Research, Chloé Jepps, said:
“The hidden cost of the pandemic is the toll it has taken on people’s mental health. And for freelancers, who took a disproportionate hit because of their exposed position in the economy, this toll has been particularly high.
“While freelancers should take time to consider and improve their mental health, the government should also raise awareness about this issue and incentivise client businesses to support their freelancers’ mental health needs.”
If you’ve found that the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting your mental health and would like further support, don’t hesitate to visit the Mind website. Mind is a charity on a mission to make sure everyone who faces mental health issues receives the help and respect they deserve.