The coronavirus crisis poses the biggest threat to mental health since World War II, and the impact will be felt for years after the virus has been brought under control, the country’s top psychiatrist said.
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that a combination of the disease, its social consequences and economic consequences were having a profound effect on mental health that would continue long after the epidemic is controlled.
Up to 10 million people, including 1.5 million children, are believed to need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the crisis.
The prediction comes as the virus emerges in the UK and highlights the need for a plan that ensures that those who develop mental illness or see existing conditions worsen have quick access to effective support for years to come.
“This will have a profound effect on mental health,” James said. “It’s probably the biggest mental health impact since World War II. It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in the hospital. You have to finance the long-term consequences. “
Demand for mental health services declined at the beginning of the pandemic, as people stayed away from surgeries by GPs and hospitals, or thought treatment was not available. But the drop was followed by an increase in people seeking help that shows no signs of abating.
NHS Digital data reveals that the number of people in contact with mental health services has never been higher, and some hospital trusts report that their mental health rooms are maxed out. “The whole system is clearly under pressure,” James said.
The Center for Mental Health model predicts that up to 10 million people You will need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the coronavirus epidemic. About 1.3 million people who have not had mental health problems before are expected to need treatment for moderate to severe anxiety, and 1.8 million treatment for moderate to severe depression, it found.
The global figure includes 1.5 million children at risk of anxiety and depression caused or aggravated by social isolation, quarantine, or hospitalization or death of family members. The numbers may rise as the full impact on ethnic minority, Asian and black communities, nursing homes and people with disabilities becomes apparent.
The threat to mental health has been used as an argument against the shutdowns, but James said mental health reasons for controlling the virus should not be ignored. Beyond the fear of becoming infected or vulnerable loved ones getting sick, having a serious illness can lead to mental health problems. About a fifth of the people who received mechanical ventilation during the spring developed post-traumatic stress disorder.
Others are dealing with complex grief reactions after losing loved ones to the virus, often without being able to say goodbye in person. The potential for mental health issues to emerge in people with “prolonged Covid” is also a very real concern, James said, adding that uncertainties about employment, housing and the broader economic difficulties that lie ahead will only add to the burden. .
To meet the next wave of demand for help, mental health services will need to be strengthened and made more accessible, James said. Young black men, for example, are often reluctant to seek early mental health care, a problem that must be solved through closer work with local communities.