In a new paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry today, CPFT research leads join 22 global experts to call for studies to address the mental health impact of COVID-19.
Co-authored with CPFT honorary consultant psychiatrists Professor Ed Bullmore, CPFT's Director of Research and Development and Professor Tamsin Ford at the University of Cambridge, the paper highlights the urgent need to improve monitoring, protection and treatment for mental health, and understand how this virus affects the brain.
Professor Ed Bullmore said: “We need an unprecedented research response if we are to limit the negative consequences of this pandemic on the mental health of our society now and in the future.
“To make a real difference we will need to harness the tools of our digital age – finding smart new ways to measure the mental health of individuals remotely, finding creative ways to boost resilience and finding ways to treat people in their homes. This effort must be considered central to our global response to the pandemic.”
Two online surveys were completed in late March (when lockdown measures were announced) to enable the public and people with lived experience of mental health conditions to inform the Lancet Psychiatry paper. They showed that people had specific concerns related to COVID-19 including increased anxiety, fear of becoming mentally unwell, access to mental health services and the impact on mental wellbeing.
In their paper, the expert working group calls for research on mental health to be central to the international response to COVID-19, warning that the pandemic could have a ‘profound’ and ‘pervasive impact’ on global mental health now and in the future. They urge UK research funding agencies to work with researchers and people experiencing mental health impacts to tackle crucial research priorities.
Professor Tamsin Ford said: "It is so essential that we study the impact of the pandemic on the brains and minds of our population, and that we do so collaboratively, using robust methods."
Research is needed to understand what makes people resilient in the face of this crisis, and find out which activities are effective in providing the biggest boost to improve mental health, supporting people to sleep well and be physically active. With no ‘one size fits all’ approach to keeping us mentally healthy – any new interventions will need to be tailored to particular groups of people, such as front line medical and social care staff.
Read more in the full press release from The Academy of Medical Sciences and MQ.