Mental Health panel event Wednesday 1 July 2020
From Chris Sims
The Institute for Policy and Engagement and the Institute for Mental Health teamed up to discuss the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our mental health and how policy makers should be responding.
We were pleased to be able to offer varied perspectives on this topic by welcoming Nottingham North MP, Alex Norris, who provided his thoughts on how the shadow health team responded during the pandemic. He spoke about how he has sourced public expertise and opinion in order to feed into the policy making process. He placed mental health in the context of wider problems in communities across the UK and explained how policy makers balance and prioritise the economy among other things with mental health.
Dr Louise Thomson discussed her research on the wellbeing of the workforce. She spoke about the complexities of her findings and how COVID-19 policies like the Government’s furlough scheme have had an impact on the mental health of some workers. She highlighted how the situation of those affected will continue to change as we move into the expected economic downturn. Policy needs to respond to this and ensure that employers consider the psychological needs of employees as well as providing COVID-secure workplaces, and that attention is given to developing jobs that promote mental well-being.
Stevie Spring CBE, Chairman of Mind charity, gave us her perspective on the pandemic’s effect on mental health, including a very useful survey undertaken by Mind. Those already living with mental health issues have fared the worst in terms of the impact on mental health, but up to 20% of those surveyed who did not have experience of mental health issues before would now class themselves as sufferers. She pointed out that without significant support, services will be completely overwhelmed. She set out 5 tests that Mind argue should be met as soon as possible by the UK Government.
Professor Ellen Townsend reflected on the issue by using her experience and research relating to the mental health of children and adolescents during this time. She argued that policy should take into account young people much more than it already does. Between March and May 94% of children missed out on education with 90% still out of school. This means that young people are missing out on education as well as vital opportunities for play and social interaction which will impact on cognitive and emotional, and ultimately mental health.