Two teams of researchers at King’s College London, led by Professor Craig Morgan and Professor Sir Simon Wessely respectively, have been awarded over £800,000 in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). These two projects will investigate the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of two particularly vulnerable groups: NHS staff and at-risk young people.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the social restrictions imposed to contain its spread have caused profound disruptions for many people – in education, employment, home life, social interactions, and daily routines. The pandemic has also brought to the fore deep-rooted inequalities facing those in the most disadvantaged, vulnerable, and marginalised communities. There is therefore an urgent need to understand the impacts of the pandemic on different groups of people, in order to develop effective public health policies and interventions to support those most affected.
Craig Morgan’s project, which will receive £321,000 in funding, will build on findings from the Resilience, Ethnicity, and AdolesCent Mental Health (REACH) study and work with 2,000 of the study’s participant group of ethnically diverse adolescents in South London. Coordinated by Dr Gemma Knowles, the project aims to identify modifiable protective factors that mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and social restrictions on adolescent mental health. The study will have a particular focus on participants who experience multiple disadvantages, such as individuals from low-income households or from a black or ethnic minority background. These findings will be used to identify factors that could protect at-risk young people from poor mental health and develop new approaches to prevent mental health problems in disadvantaged and vulnerable young people. By working closely with young people, schools, community organisations, and the public, findings will be translated into tangible policy recommendations and public health benefits. The researchers will look to share their findings at a COVID-19 Young Persons Mental Health summit in 2021.
We are delighted to receive funding from the UKRI to support this work. We know that Covid-19 and the social and economic consequences of trying to limit its spread have transformed the lives of young people, almost overnight. As we are already seeing more broadly, these impacts are likely to hit those who already live in disadvantaged households most. – Professor Craig Morgan, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London
He added ‘This project is designed to understand the effects on the mental health of young people who experience multiple disadvantages so that we can do something to better protect their mental health and well-being.’
Simon Wessely’s project, which will receive £530,000 in funding, will focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the psychological health wellbeing of NHS staff across 18 NHS hospital Trusts in England. There have been several surveys reporting negative effects of the pandemic on the mental health of healthcare workers, but large-scale population-based studies are needed to confirm these effects and to what extent they persist. The study will collate data on a mass scale and evaluate national and local staff support schemes. Their health and wellbeing will be assessed at regular intervals across the next 12 months using questionnaires and interviews. The aim of the project is to identify those most at risk and in need of tailored support.
NHS staff have been under tremendous pressure throughout the pandemic, and while we know from smaller studies that psychological health of staff has suffered, we have yet to conduct a large-scale study across England. – Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine, IoPPN, King's College London
He welcomed the funding, adding ‘This information is vital to help us understand exactly how NHS staff have been affected, and how we can best support individuals with different needs. We will also look to identify those most at risk, and each hospital Trust will work to ensure strong representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic healthcare workers, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.’
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