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17 April 2020

Experts bring mental health to the forefront of the national agenda

3 mins

Psychiatrists and psychologists call for urgent research as people’s mental health is increasingly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Increased social isolation, abrupt changes in lifestyle, loss of employment or fears of losing jobs, loneliness, pressures of balancing childcare and health anxiety are all contributing to people’s deteriorating mental health and wellbeing.

In their published work, Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science, experts set out immediate actions and long-term strategic programmes. Authors warn that lack of action would risk increased anxiety and depression, less balanced lifestyle, addictions, as well as, among others, homelessness, domestic violence, self-harm, difficulties in dealing with bereavement and end of life care. People with existing mental health issues might be particularly affected while socially excluded groups, including prisoners, the homeless, and refugees, might require a tailored response.

Employers are already putting measures in place across the board to support their workforce, introducing behavioural change and learning to understand and adapt to individual mental welfare needs, however, as the time goes on, many employees are finding “work” and “life” blend into one.

Warning that the world is likely to face a global crisis in poor mental welfare after the COVID-19 pandemic, comes with a call for real-time monitoring of mental health, prioritised research by the government and evidence-based treatments to lessen the impact on the wider society.

Expert opinion:

The Position Paper is a timely reminder that the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the UK’s response to it will reach far and wide in our society. Police, prosecutors and courts must be ready more than ever to show a fair and proportionate response to all those who come into contact with it as a result of mental breakdown or ill health.

Katie Wheatley, Head of Crime, Fraud and Regulatory

In these unprecedented times more and more strain is being placed on employee mental health. People are isolated, disconnected and managing a multitude of factors from home. Employers can put in place simple yet effective mechanisms to support staff and their mental well-being. It can be anything from a quick ‘catch up’ phone call, zoom calls for more personal interaction to supportive emails showing people are being thought about. More sophisticated measures can be team exercises/online-interaction to increase engagement or the offer of on-line counselling sessions which are increasing in popularity given the climate. Employers need to remember that employees value the small things and it does not take a lot to make an impact. The concepts of solidarity, compassion and collaborative working go a long way to supporting people in difficult and unpredictable circumstances.

Elizabeth McGlone, Head of Employment and Professional Discipline

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