Local authority leaders have called for a ‘new national focus’ on mental health as a study estimates that up to 10 million people in England may need support for depression and anxiety as a result of COVID-19.
A new study from the Centre for Mental Health estimates that 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. This is the equivalent of 20% of all adults and 15% of all children.
Entitled Covid-19 and the nation’s mental health: October 2020, the report says two-thirds of the people who will need support have existing mental health difficulties and may already be receiving care and treatment. The pandemic may mean they need more support, while others will need help with their mental health for the first time.
Centre for Mental Health chief economist and report author 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.
‘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.’
Responding to the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, emphasised the role councils play in supporting people with mental health issues.
‘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,’ he said.
Cllr Hudspeth also called for a new national focus on mental health issues and more funds to help councils support their residents.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’