Today Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington, chaired a virtual meeting of the APPG on Mental Health. The event was organised in response to the impact of covid-19 on NHS mental health services.
It was attended by cross-party Parliamentarians, representatives from health organisations and members of the public with an interest in the topic, and featured a panel of experts including a mental health service user, NHS leaders and the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Participants explained how the pandemic had impacted those with existing mental health problems in terms of access to their usual support, as well as how it was likely to lead to more people developing new mental health problems. The panellists discussed what the NHS and other mental health service providers needed to consider in responding to the challenge.
16 weeks on from lockdown measures first being imposed, the mental health impacts of covid-19 are emerging more clearly.
A survey of over 1,300 mental health doctors found 43% had seen an increase in urgent and emergency cases following lockdown. Psychiatrists are expecting a surge in demand once the pandemic has passed and are concerned about how many more people appear to be presenting in crisis, experiencing very severe mental ill-health.
NHS mental health services were not instructed to close during lockdown – but despite remaining open, many people have struggled to get meaningful support, unless they have become so unwell that they need urgent or emergency care.
There is broad consensus that there will be a rise in demand for mental health services after the pandemic. The Centre for Mental Health predicts that if the economic impact is similar to the 2008 recession, then we could expect 500,000 additional people experiencing mental health problems, with depression being the most common illness.
At today’s event, viewers heard from:
- Karen, a mental health service user, who shared how the disruption caused by the pandemic impacted her negatively
- Dr Adrian James, the new President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
- Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan, the Associate National Clinical Director at NHS England for Children and Young People’s Mental Health
- Claire Murdoch CBE, the National Mental Health Director at NHS England
The event can still be viewed via this link until 3pm on 7th July.
“I was really pleased to chair our APPG’s second virtual event on covid-19 and mental health. Hearing from the panel today helped myself and colleagues gain a better understanding of how the virus has impacted on the prevalence of mental health problems and access to services and support, and what service providers are aiming to do about it.
“With Covid-19 affecting so many aspects of life as we know it, it’s crucial we speak up for mental health and press the Government to meet the additional demand with additional funding. I’m grateful to all our speakers for giving their time, and particularly to Karen for sharing her own difficult experiences over these last few months, which highlight how crucial it is that we act decisively to get this right.”