As of this morning – Thursday April 16 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 98,476 with 12,868 deaths.
The Lancet Psychiatry has published a new paper highlighting an urgent need to tackle the harmful impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and potentially the brain.
It warns that the pandemic could have a ‘profound’ and ‘pervasive impact’ on global mental health now and in the future, yet only a very small proportion of new scientific publications relating to the virus have centred on its mental health effects.
The researchers outline the priorities for mental health research, as informed by public surveys and an expert panel convened by the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the mental health research charity, MQ: Transforming Mental Health. They call for more widespread mental health monitoring during the pandemic and also better ways to protect against and treat mental ill health conditions.
“Governments must find evidence-based ways to boost the resilience of our societies and find ways to treat those with mental ill health remotely to come out of this pandemic in good mental health,” said paper author Professor Emily Holmes from the Department of Psychology, Uppsala University in Sweden.
“Front line medical staff and vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with serious mental health conditions must be prioritised for rapid mental health support.”
The paper calls for ‘moment to moment’ monitoring of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, and other mental health issues, as well as the “rapid roll out of evidence-based programmes and treatments” that can be accessed remotely.
“This paper gives us a research roadmap to help protect our mental health at this incredibly difficult time and in the future,” said Professor Matthew Hotopf, vice dean research at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience and Director NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and one of the paper authors.
“We are calling for real time monitoring of mental health of the population to develop effective treatments. This needs to be on a bigger scale than we have ever seen previously, and must be coordinated, targeted and comprehensive to give us an evidence based picture of what is really going on in societies around the world.”
The paper also highlights that ‘almost nothing is yet known with certainty about the impact of COVID-19 on the human nervous system’ and, as other coronaviruses have been shown to pass into the central nervous system, research to monitor and understand whether COVID-19 also has effects on the brain and nervous system is urgently needed.
As such, it calls for a new database to be established to monitor any psychological or brain effects of COVID-19 and for research to look at the way the virus could enter the nervous system.
“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,” said study author Professor Ed Bullmore, head of Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge.
“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.”
WASH YOUR HANDS:
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING:
Maintain at least two metres (six feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
STAY AT HOME:
Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home).