Millions will need mental health support after pandemic, researchers warn
Around 8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children in England are likely to need mental health support in the wake of Covid-19, according to a new report.
The analysis from the Centre for Mental Health, which consulted experts from NHS England and NHS trusts, said people will mostly need help for depression and anxiety, but also for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some people will have lost jobs, others will have lost loved ones, and some will be dealing with the long-term effects of having Covid-19, the report said.
It suggests two-thirds of people will already have existing mental health difficulties and may be receiving support, but others will need help for the first time.
It added: “Among people who have not experienced mental ill health prior to the pandemic, demand for services is forecast at 1.33 million people for moderate-severe anxiety and 1.82 million for moderate to severe depression.”
From the total number of people needing support, researchers estimate more than 230,000 NHS workers may need treatment, including for post-traumatic distress (36,996), high psychological distress (120,372) and burnout (81,499).
A similar pattern is likely to emerge among those working in social care settings such as nursing homes, they said.
Among patients recovering from severe Covid-19 – where they were admitted to intensive care and survived – an estimated 630 will need mental health support for anxiety, 454 for depression and 354 for PTSD, according to the report.
Meanwhile, 36,000 people who lost loved ones and were unable to be with them or say goodbye will need treatment, with depression being the most common condition.
At present unemployment levels, which could rise, around 30,000 people who lost their job will need support for major depression, the study said.
Of the 1.5 million children estimated to need support, 458,922 will need help for depression and 407,623 for anxiety.
Children who have lost parents to Covid-19 will also require help, plus those who suffered other mental distress during lockdown.
Nick O’Shea (pictured), the chief economist at the Centre for Mental Health who led the research, 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.”
He said plans must be put in place 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,” he added.
“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: “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.”
Claire Murdoch, mental health director for the NHS, said: “We know that many people’s lives will have been disrupted in these uncertain times, which can trigger anxiety, but there are common sense, simple steps which can ease symptoms including talking to friends and loved ones, undertaking regular exercise, keeping a healthy and balanced diet and accessing self-help websites such as Every Mind Matters.
“But if your symptoms persist the NHS has been and will continue to be there for you, whether that is through video consultations and online support, our mental health crisis hotline, or through face-to-face appointments, so you can get the help and support you need.”
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