The government and the NHS must ‘prepare now’ to meet increased need for mental health support – for as many of 20% of adults across the UK – in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an analysis by Centre for Mental Health.
The centre’s report, Covid-19 and the nation’s mental health: October 2020, has used a toolkit developed from research into the mental health effects of Covid-19 and previous disease epidemics to estimate how many people will need support for their mental health in its wake.
Its conclusion is that about 8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children in England will need support for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health difficulties in the coming months and years. That is the equivalent of 20% of all adults and 15% of all children, it calculated.
Two-thirds of those who will need mental health support were likely to have existing mental health difficulties and might already be receiving care and treatment, the centre pointed out. Nevertheless, the pandemic may mean they need more support, while others will need help with their mental health for the first time.
Report author and Centre for Mental Health chief economist Nick O’Shea said: “The numbers are stark. Covid-19 is a disaster for every country that has been badly affected, and the consequences for our mental health are just as severe.
“The challenge of meeting the mental health needs arising out of the pandemic may be as great as the many difficulties of responding to the virus. So it must be taken as seriously. We must prepare now for what lies ahead. That means putting in place plans to identify people who need mental health support and ensure they receive the right care quickly.
“Unresolved mental health needs can escalate to crisis point without effective early help. We cannot afford to wait and see or to leave it until after the pandemic has subsided,” he added.
Its warning comes follows a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) last month that argued the growing numbers of home workers may need additional mental health support during the pandemic.
By and large, the shift to home working had been a positive experience for most employers, with many reporting improved work-life balance, enhanced employee collaboration and improved focus, the CIPD said.
But, on the downside, employers highlighted reduced staff mental wellbeing (47%), problems with interaction/co-operation (36%), difficulties with line managing home workers (33%) and challenges around monitoring performance (28%).