The Covid-19 crisis is having a severe impact on the mental health of many people. As it stands, it is very difficult for people to access mental health care, with incredibly long waiting lists and short courses of treatment with little follow up. In addition, as we go through this unprecedented crisis, some people are experiencing severe trauma, for which the standard therapies which are offered (for example Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can be inappropriate treatment. What can be done in London to support those experiencing mental health problems as a result of this pandemic, including frontline workers, considering we are already going through a mental health crisis?
These are key issues for London and there are concerns about the long-term mental health impact of the crisis, the disproportionate impact on some groups, the impact on health inequalities and the implications for children and young people. Voluntary and community sector organisations are under significant pressure, and some people in crisis have been unable to get the support they need.
As part of the public health response, careful interpretation of responses is required. Pathologising the natural process of how people are adapting and coping with change is a risk and could perpetuate mental health stigma. This is not to suggest people do not need help and support, but the impact will be most felt by those lower down the social ladder and those with existing mental health problems.
In April I chaired a meeting of mental health leaders to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Londoners’ mental health. A group is now developing and progressing a mental health action plan.