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Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and the effects on the health sector 

Karen Barker Subject Specialist, Health  

The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of everyone, and many individuals are struggling with their mental health Research from mental health charity Mind suggests that more people are in mental health crisis than ever before 

The physical impact of the pandemic on the health sector has been widely reported. If more funding isn’t invested in mental health services, the impact on individuals and the sector will be detrimental.  

Going digital 

The pandemic has created a ‘‘digital’’ world including mental health support services, where many appointments with individuals requiring support are happening online. We can raise questions about how effective an online support forum is, rather than face-to-face services to support individuals who are in mental health crisis.  

Even as restrictions are lifting, mental health services are continuing to run online to safeguard staff and individuals. 

As digital working has become the norm, this could be argued to be positive for the health sector. Digital alleviates some of the financial effects of Covid-19 on mental health services which are stretched, as digital support is seen to be more cost-effective.  

However, it could also be argued that this could lead to more individuals not getting the support they need, and lead to more long-term mental health support requirements. This could be detrimental to the sector as mental health services may not be able to cope with the additional strain.   

Support needed 

If there is a surge in mental health difficulties, there will be a need to recruit more mental health support staff to be able to help individuals. The health sector will need government funding for recruiting mental health workers to be able to effectively support individuals in mental health crisis, resulting from the pandemic. 

Health workers have had to deal with a lot during the pandemic. This could lead to mental health staff leaving the sector as they themselves may not be able to cope with their role’s new challengesMental health services need funding to protect their workforce and make sure employees’ mental and physical wellbeing is looked after. It’s also vital that there’s support to upskill staff, to ensure that they can provide the required services.   

If additional support is not forthcoming for mental health services,  there could be a future ‘mental health’ pandemic, leading to a real risk of the sector not coping with the demand.