The LGA and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) have jointly produced this briefing for Directors of Public Health about the public mental health and wellbeing issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.
While many people have acted in solidarity in response to COVID-19, and there will be some positive benefits from this community spirit and response, the epidemic will likely have many psychological impacts on the population which may have a detrimental effect on the short, medium and long-term mental health of some residents. In turn, this may reduce people’s resilience and their ability to cope. Longer term impacts in terms of trauma, grief and distress may exacerbate the burden of mental ill-health in the community long after recovery.
The behaviours and environments needed to curtail the spread of COVID-19 are known risk factors for mental health difficulties. The diagram below shows potential mental health impacts of COVID-19 across the life course. There will be additional impacts for people with a learning disability and/or autism which will need careful consideration. Students and frontline staff are likely to have additional impacts too.
Some people will experience trauma – that is harmful experiences or life-threatening events that can have lasting impacts on mental, physical, emotional and/ or social well-bring. It is a normal part of a human response to major emergencies and may not require specific medical support unless Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is diagnosed. But there are a range of harmful impacts which may result, including anxiety, depression, inability to cope, grief and loss from bereavement, domestic abuse and crowd behaviour which creates social norms which reinforce harmful behaviours (for example, panic buying making those vulnerable less able to cope).
There may be additional stress for people who have to make major lifestyle changes, such as fit and active over 70 year olds who are self isolating or people who have had procedures or medical treatment postponed. This could include children or young people waiting for CAMHs assessments.