Charities call for national post-coronavirus ‘mental health renewal plan’

A coalition of charities has called on prime minister Boris Johnson to create a ‘mental health renewal plan’ for England in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 51 charities and social sector organisations have written a letter to Johnson calling for a cross-government approach to put the nation’s mental health at the heart of any Covid-19 recovery plan.

In the letter they said: “Before the crisis, many people in our society with mental health problems were already struggling to access the basic support needed to stay well. But with an estimated half a million more people likely to experience mental health problems as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic, continuing with business as usual is now not an option.

“We are calling on the government to work in full partnership with the mental health and wider voluntary sector and their allies to shape a New Social Contract for a mentally healthier society. Only through collaboration, partnership and fully involving people who are struggling with their mental health in the development of a plan can we prevent the looming mental health crisis, tackle health inequalities and enable the UK to rebound stronger from this pandemic,” the letter added.

The letter also highlighted that research had shown that almost 80% of people living with mental illness had reported their mental health has got worse as a result of the crisis. More than 7,000 times a day people struggling to cope were receiving emotional support from Samaritans, and almost half of the UK population was experiencing high levels of anxiety, it said.

A survey of more than 16,000 people during lockdown by the mental health charity Mind had also suggested two out of three adults (65%) over the age of 25 and three-quarters of young people (75%) aged 13-24 with an existing mental health problem had reported worse mental health during lockdown.

The charity urged the government to include five key tests as part of any recovery plan for mental health: investing in community services; protecting those most at risk and addressing inequalities faced by people from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities; reforming the Mental Health Act; providing a financial safety net through the benefits system; and supporting children and young people.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, added: “The coronavirus pandemic is as much a mental health emergency as it is a physical one. The devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, and the inevitable recession that lies ahead will leave a deep and lasting scar on our nation’s mental health.

“Those of us who were already struggling with our mental health have fared worst, but we also know that many people who were previously well will now develop mental health problems, as a direct consequence of the pandemic.”

Separately, a study from private healthcare provider Bupa has warned that eight out of 10 people had experienced potential symptoms of poor mental health during the weeks of lockdown, yet almost half had not told anyone.

Those with symptoms planned to delay seeking medical help by as much as 50 days or until things were “back to normal”, and more than half (52%) were worried about what life would be like as lockdown measures are eased, it added.

The full list of signatories in the letter to the prime minister was:

  • Caroline Abrahams, CEO, Age UK
  • Kate Lee, CEO, Alzheimer’s Society
  • Michael Samuel, Chair of Board, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families
  • Kathy Roberts, CEO, Association of Mental Health Providers
  • Emma Rigby, CEO, Association of Young People’s Health
  • Kay Boycott, CEO, Asthma UK
  • Andrew Radford, CEO, Beat
  • Kay Boycott, CEO, British Lung Foundation
  • Helen Walker, CEO, Carers UK
  • Sarah Hughes, CEO, Centre for Mental Health
  • Clare Stafford CEO, Charlie Waller Memorial Trust
  • Poppy Jaman, CEO, City Mental Health Alliance
  • Steven Wibberley, CEO, Cruse Bereavement Care
  • Chris Askew, CEO, Diabetes UK
  • Sinead McBrearty, CEO, Education Support
  • Ronnie Wilson, CEO, First Step Trust
  • Paula Ojok, CEO, Helplines Partnership
  • Natalie Seymour, Clinical Psychologies/Clinical Lead, MAC-UK
  • Matthew Reed, CEO, Marie Curie
  • Alison Pay, CEO, Mental Health at Work
  • Simon Blake, CEO, Mental Health First Aid England
  • Mark Rowland, CEO, Mental Health Foundation
  • Victoria Hornby, CEO, Mental Health Innovations
  • Sean Duggan, CEO, Mental Health Network
  • Brian Dow, CEO, Mental Health UK
  • Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind
  • Anna Feuchtwang, CEO, National Children’s Bureau & Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition
  • Jacqui Morrissey, Co-Chair, National Suicide Prevention Alliance
  • Akiko Hart, CEO, National Survivor User Network
  • Leigh Wallbank, CEO, OCD Action
  • Ged Lynn, CEO, PAPYRUS
  • Catherine Roche, CEO, Place2Be
  • Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation
  • Mark Winstanley, CEO, Rethink Mental Illness
  • Nathan Dick, Head of Policy, Revolving Doors Agency
  • Neil Tester, Director, Richmond Group of Charities
  • Catherine Johnstone, CEO, Royal Voluntary Services
  • Ruth Sutherland, CEO, Samaritans
  • James Watson O’Neill, CEO, SignHealth
  • Nancy Kelley, CEO, Stonewall
  • Juliet Bouverie, CEO, Stroke Association
  • Rosie Tressler, CEO, Student Minds
  • Brendan Hill, CEO, The Concern Group
  • Chris Martin, CEO, The Mix
  • Amanda Janoo, Knowledge and Policy Lead, The Wellbeing Economy Alliance
  • Phil Pyatt, CEO, TimeBank
  • Linda Bryant, CEO, Together for Mental Wellbeing
  • Thomas Lawson, CEO, Turn2us
  • Liam O’Toole, CEO, Versus Arthritis
  • Emma Thomas, CEO, YoungMinds
  • Barry Williams, Interim CEO, Youth Access
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