- 24 experts publish a research roadmap to help keep us mentally healthy through the pandemic
- A new poll shows the public are already substantially concerned about their mental health in response to COVID-19
- Experts call for real time monitoring of mental health to be rolled out urgently in UK and globally
- Front line medical staff and vulnerable groups must be a priority for mental health support
- Digital apps and remotely delivered programmes must be designed to protect our mental health
A new paper, published today in The Lancet Psychiatry, highlights an urgent need to tackle the harmful impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and potentially the brain and calls for research on these areas to be central to the global response to the pandemic.
The paper warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could have a ‘profound’ and ‘pervasive impact’ on global mental health now and in the future, yet a separate recent analysis shows that so far, only a tiny proportion of new scientific publications on COVID-19 have been on mental health impacts.
The paper calls for more widespread mental health monitoring and better ways to protect against, and treat, mental ill health – both of which will require new funding and better coordination.
The general public already have substantial concerns about mental health in relation to the pandemic – according to an Ipsos MORI poll of 1099 members of the UK public, and a survey of 2198 people by the UK mental health research charity, MQ, that included many people with experience of mental health conditions.*
Both surveys were carried out in late March, the week lockdown measures were announced, to inform the Lancet Psychiatry paper. They showed the public had specific concerns related to COVID-19 including increased anxiety, fear of becoming mentally unwell, access to mental health services and the impact on mental wellbeing.
Paper author Prof Ann John, Professor in Public Health and Psychiatry, based in Population Data Science at Swansea University Medical School, said:
“Nobody doubts there will be mental health effects of the lockdown as we try to curb the spread of COVID-19. For many this will be focussed around health anxiety and loneliness but we may also see rises in online gambling, cyberbullying, home drinking, domestic violence and relationship breakdown.
Combine these with the economic hardship an bereavement that many are experiencing and it becomes obvious that we must act now to protect the population’s mental, and well as, physical health.
This means practical advice but also new ways of delivering support and care. We know the impact on mental health will not be experienced equally in our society – people in more deprived households and areas or who are already vulnerable tend to be more at risk.
We need to ensure that whatever we do, we don’t make those disparities wider but consciously move to address them.”
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