As many as 10 million people in England will need help for mental health problems over the coming months and years in the aftermath of COVID-19, the Centre for Mental Health has warned.
The Centre estimates that around 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 - the equivalent of 20% of all adults and 15% of all children.
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.”
Covid-19 and the nation's mental health, written 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.
The estimate is based on international research and a ‘demand model’ developed with NHS experts. It includes estimated numbers of people who need mental health support due to bereavement, those who are traumatised by being treated for the virus, and people whose finances have been affected due to the recession.
While two-thirds of people who will need mental health support have existing mental health problems and may already be receiving care and treatment, the pandemic may mean they need more support. Others will need help with their mental health for the first time.
The government and the NHS must prepare now to meet increased need for mental health support, the Centre for Mental Health states.
Centre for Mental Health chief economist Nick O’Shea said: “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.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “These stark figures demonstrate the scale of the mental health crisis we face in this country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Councils play a crucial role in improving and maintaining their residents’ mental health and wellbeing, through adult and children’s social care, supporting their staff, suicide prevention and helping unpaid carers and new parents, as well as by providing safe access to parks and green spaces, supporting schools, youth services, children’s centres and expanding public libraries’ online offer.
“We need a new national focus on helping everyone stay mentally well, including those affected by COVID-19, backed-up by funding for councils to spend with the voluntary and community sector on meeting local mental wellbeing needs.
“This should include a shift in focus and funding away from simply treating mental ill-health and towards a locally-led approach to promoting people’s mental wellbeing throughout their lives.
“The upcoming Spending Review should be used to provide ongoing funding for councils to invest in effective mental health services and support to meet existing, new and unmet demand caused by the pandemic,” he concluded.
COVID-19 and the nation’s mental health