5 May 2020
Addressing the psychological harm from Covid-19 must be a priority once the acute phase of the pandemic has passed, according to a briefing published today by Centre for Mental Health.
Trauma, mental health and coronavirus: Supporting healing and recovery uses evidence from research about trauma to set out some of the challenges that lie ahead in supporting the public’s health in the months and years to come.
The briefing finds that while Covid-19 has changed life for all of us, the pandemic does not affect everyone equally, and some people will experience more serious and lasting traumas than others.
While many will come through the pandemic without lasting negative effects on their mental health, some people will be seriously affected by the traumatic experiences of both the virus itself and the lockdown and loss of livelihood. For some, this may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Trauma, mental health and coronavirus sets out evidence of what might help people to recover. It says that a ‘trauma-informed’ approach will be needed to help both individuals and communities (for example in schools and workplaces) to heal from Covid-19.
This means planning long-term, for example to help people to go back to normal life gradually, to give people space to make sense of what has happened, to deal with practical and financial worries, and to offer psychological support to people who need it.
Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “The response to Covid-19 has brought abrupt changes to everyday life. Many people will have felt isolated and disempowered at some point during the lockdown. All of us have experienced some kind of loss – for example of our freedom, of our job, of our health, or of a loved one.
“But not everyone is equally at risk of psychological harm from the same event. The effects of trauma can be cumulative and magnified by injustice and inequality. This means that those of us who have already suffered distressing experiences, such as abuse, neglect, discrimination and oppression, are at higher risk of psychological harm and trauma from the adversity of the current crisis.
“When the acute phase of the physical health crisis has passed, addressing these social and psychological consequences must be made a priority. Careful thought needs to be given to how we to repair the social fabric and support those who have experienced the most distress. A trauma-informed approach to both collective and individual recovery will be needed.
“A trauma-informed approach will seek to provide long-term, reliable support. Instead of isolation and disempowerment, it will seek to bring people together, rebuilding relationships, and giving all members of the community a voice in planning for recovery. And, where there has been loss, it will support people to grieve and come to terms with a changed future.”