He spoke on Tuesday 22 September on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 illness upon patients, healthcare workers, and bereaved relatives on behalf of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Professor Hotopf discussed the key points made in The Lancet Psychiatry paper he co-authored, Mental health before and during the Covid-19 pandemic: a longitudinal probability sample survey of the UK population. The study reveals that some mental health inequalities that were present before the pandemic have widened. The increase in clinically significant mental distress was greater among women than men, and in younger age groups than older people.
He also highlighted the work of the NHS Check study which explores how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the work of NHS staff to identify how best to support acute hospital staff during pandemics.
In addition, he flagged yesterday’s joint statement from MQ and the Academy of Medical Sciences about why funding mental health research should be an urgent and ongoing priority in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was followed by questions from the Committee on a variety of topics including, the effects of complicated grief, self-help coping mechanisms, the impact of the virus on different age groups, the mental health support available for health professionals, and the psychiatric impact of Long Covid.
Matthew described his experiences of working with bereaved people with complicated grief at his clinic at St Christopher’s Hospice and their difficult, painful, raw, continuing grief, and how their lives have been completely impacted in all ways.
For too long mental health ends up being siloed, a huge amount of benefit would come from research funding having a mental health component as a norm. Health care needs proper integration. People need a package of care that focuses on mind, health and body.– Professor Matthew Hotopf answering committee questions in the House of Lords
Call for mental health and brain research to be a higher priority
In April 2020, Professor Hotopf was one of 24 leading experts on mental health, including neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, public health experts, to call for mental health and brain research to be a higher priority in global response to tackle COVID-19 pandemic.
They were brought together and supported by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the mental health research charity, MQ.
Their position paper, published in The Lancet Psychiatry contained a research roadmap to help keep us mentally healthy through the pandemic. It called for real-time monitoring of mental health to be rolled out urgently in UK and globally, and for the use of digital apps and remotely delivered programmes to protect our mental health.
The science of COVID-19 inquiry
The science of COVID-19 inquiry is investigating the scientific and technological aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, its transmission and spread, the development of vaccines and treatments, and how digital technologies can be used for tracking and modelling. The inquiry aims to help Government and society learn from the pandemic and better prepare for future epidemics.
The other witnesses on the panel were:
- Dr Michael Bloomfield, Head of Translational Psychiatry Research Group at University College London, and Co-founder at COVID Traumatic Stress Clinic, UCL
- Dr Nicola Rooney, Northern Ireland Chair of Division of Clinical Psychology at British Psychological Society, and Professor; Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Queen's University Belfast.
You can watch the discussion on Parliamentlive.tv here.