Covid-19 and the nation's mental health: May 2021

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Forecasting needs and risks in the UK

Nick O'Shea

The implications of the pandemic are wide-reaching. Covid-19 has hospitalised nearly half a million people in the UK, over 127,000 people have died, and the economy has shrunk significantly. All of this has an impact on the mental health of the nation, and our new model forecasts how many people are likely to need mental health support as a result of the pandemic.

Covid-19 and the nation’s mental health confirms that 10 million people (8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children and young people) in England will need support for their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic over the next three to five years.

Based on an analysis of over 200 high-quality studies from around the world, our model (developed by clinicians, researchers and economists from the NHS and Centre for Mental Health) identifies key groups of people who face an especially high risk of poor mental health as a result of the pandemic. These groups include people who have survived severe Covid-19 illness (especially those treated in intensive care), those working in health and care services during the pandemic, people economically impacted by the pandemic, and those who have been bereaved.

While the NHS is already investing in additional mental health services, the predicted levels of demand are two to three times that of current NHS mental health capacity within a 3-5 year window. This briefing makes it clear that Government and the NHS must take action now to meet a very steep increase in demand for mental health support. It is also vital to develop services to meet the specific needs arising from the pandemic – for example, specialist bereavement support and evidence-based help for those with trauma symptoms.

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The coronavirus pandemic is a physical health emergency on a global scale, such as we have never seen in our lifetimes. But it is also a mental health emergency.

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