Tackling an Anti-Social Virus. The pandemic is having seriously negative impacts on mental health.

The Centre for Mental Health predicts up to 10 million will need new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the pandemic. Those whose mental wellbeing is most vulnerable, say CMH, are: people with existing mental health conditions; NHS workers; ICU patients and their families; people who are bereaved; and the unemployed. How government responds to this challenge has the potential to make things significantly worse, adding injustice, further insecurity and long-term damage to peoples‚’ mental wellbeing or ‚’ if the ideas outlined below are taken up – to mitigate damage and improve wellbeing of those impacted. Previous policy approaches have pursued two priorities, neither of which are now available: (1) under the Coalition, and continued by the current administration, Universal credit and a system of incentives for people to return to work, including sanctions if they fail to comply with reasonable expectations, is considered the best way to support their mental wellbeing. A ‚’work-first‚’ approach. This is no longer feasible, especially in areas where jobs will not be available. (2) initiated under New Labour, but supported by subsequent administrations, an increase in access to talking therapies (IAPT), for adults and for children and young people, has been seen to offer a better alternative than just medication to help people with depression and anxiety. A ‚’therapy-first‚’ approach. This has become less feasible, also, with services needing to switch to remote ways of working, large drop-offs in referrals, and poor retention and recovery rates. The scale of this challenge, its urgency, and the potential damage if it is not addressed ‚’ including scarring effects of unemployment, for example, and long-term, chronic and recurrent depression, demand a new solution.




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