“More than two thirds of adults with mental health problems reported that their mental health deteriorated during lockdown… Nearly half of young people aged 13–24 (44%) said that they experienced difficulties getting help for their mental health which made their mental health worse.” (The Mental Health Emergency report, Mind, 2020)
Initial research into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on the UK population’s mental health and wellbeing indicates a major negative impact, including increasing rates of suicidal thoughts and a widening socio-economic gap. It demonstrates certain groups are at higher risk for mental ill-health because of the pandemic, including women, young people, people working on the frontline, and people with pre-existing mental health conditions.
While the Government has pledged an extra £2 billion a year to mental health services from 2023 as part of a landmark reform of mental health laws, set to create sweeping changes in structuring of mental health services and aimed at delivering parity between mental and physical health services through a patient centric approach1, campaigners argue more is needed, and sooner. The charity, Mind, has warned of a second mental health pandemic brewing, with NHS data showing a “huge increase in urgent and emergency referrals for crisis care”2. Compounding these increases in mental health issues is a high prevalence of people not seeking support when experiencing mental ill-health.
Lynn has analysed the current situation and created a briefing paper, which maps the challenges, requirements, and solutions for addressing increased mental health issues in the UK population, specifically using models of strategic communications, data and behavioural science.
Based on research conducted by Lynn, and on outcomes achieved across multiple public health campaigns, including the Free Your Mind campaign which was designed to help raise awareness of, and engagement with, relevant NHS mental health services during Lockdown 1 (delivered by Lynn in partnership with NHS South East London CCG in 2020), several behavioural barriers to action are identified, specifically in relation to take-up of mental health services and resources. These include:
- Information and choice overload: Contrary to popular belief, too much information can result in people not wanting to make a choice, or it might make them feel anxious about their decisions.
- Status quo bias: This is an emotional bias where we often prefer the current state of affairs. If individuals have previously not taken action to care for their mental health and sought support (whether due to choice overload or convenience factors), they may prefer that route and this inertia has the potential for drastic consequences, especially for those who might require urgent care.
- Confirmation bias: The rise of social media has resulted in increasing confirmation bias; that is, a tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs. Individuals may choose to ignore information that goes against their beliefs, especially when dealing with complex issues like mental health.
This Lynn paper not only discusses the unique challenges and barriers preventing people in need connecting with relevant mental health and wellbeing services during the pandemic, but also looks at successful options and strategies for overcoming barriers.
You can access the full COVID-19 and Mental Health briefing paper here: https://lynn.global/mental-health-briefing-paper/