Up to 10 million people in England may need support for their mental health as a result of the pandemic, says Centre for Mental Health

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1 October 2020

The Government and the NHS must prepare now to meet increased need for mental health support in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an analysis published today by Centre for Mental Health.

Covid-19 and the nation's mental health: October 2020, by Nick O’Shea, uses a toolkit developed from research into the mental health impacts of Covid-19 and previous disease epidemics to estimate how many people will need support for their mental health in its wake.

It estimates 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.

Two-thirds of people who will need mental health support have existing mental health difficulties and may already be receiving care and treatment. The pandemic may mean they need more support, while others will need help with their mental health for the first time.

The estimate is based on international research and a ‘demand model’ developed with experts from the NHS. It includes estimated numbers of people who need mental health support as a result of bereavement, those who are traumatised by being treated for the virus, and people who lose their livelihoods as a consequence of the recession.

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.”

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have been monitoring the impact on mental health and the lives of people with mental health difficulties. We have identified the risks and the unequal impacts of Covid-19 on both mental and physical health. The extent of the crisis is becoming clearer every day.

“There is a rising tide of distress that will over time require effective and compassionate care and support. The Government and the NHS must act now. We must not leave the nation’s mental health to chance.”


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