New mental health initiatives revealed as survey exposes mental health cost of pandemic

An online action plan generator and a satellite-powered app designed to spot loneliness are both announced as government surveys show that 49% of people feel that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.

Two new digital mental health initiatives have been announced by the UK Government as the pandemic continues to damage the mental wellbeing of the population.

The announcements come alongside a survey undertaken by Public Health England (PHE) that reveals that 49% feel that their mental health has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic.

The research found that 46% of those surveyed expressed concern about experiencing increased levels of anxiety, whilst 44% said they felt more stressed. The survey also found that over a third of people said they had experienced problems sleeping and 46% said they had continuously suffered from a low mood during the pandemic.

In response, Public Health England announced the launch of the ‘Better Health – Every Mind Matters’ campaign. Supported by the NHS, the campaign focuses on supporting people to “take action” to look after their mental health through free “NHS approved” mental health action plans.

Users answer five questions to receive a plan with practical tips to help them deal with stress and anxiety, boost their mood, sleep better and feel more in control, the Government says.

The Government also added that ‘Better Health - Every Mind Matters’ website also contains information and videos to help young people look after their own mental health, as research conducted by the Prince’s Trust shows that one in four young people feel “unable to cope” with the global situation.

The campaign has been supported by a coalition of major mental health charities, including Mind, Samaritans, Young Minds, and Rethink.

Clare Perkins, Director of the Mental Health Programme at PHE, said that the pandemic had caused “unprecedented challenges” for people and hoped that the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign would provide vital support to those who were struggling.

“Stress, anxiety and worry are very natural feelings in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak and looking after our mental wellbeing has never been more important,” said Perkins.

“The good news is that our Every Mind Matters COVID-19 resources have lots of excellent practical tips and advice, and I’d encourage you to get a free NHS Mind Plan, which will give you simple steps to help you navigate these challenging times,” she added.

In addition, experts are worried about rising numbers of people across the UK experiencing loneliness, particularly among young people and older adults. Latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that 6% of adults, or around 3 million people, in England always or often feel lonely.

The Government has announced a new satellite-enabled app supported by the UK Space Agency that aims to tackle increasing levels of loneliness.

Care View uses information entered by public volunteers such as police officers, postal workers and even members of the public to highlight individuals who might be suffering from isolation.

These volunteers can notify the app if they spot signs that a householder may be struggling. As more people notify the app to a specific area, it will create heat-maps pinpointing locations that seem to be in need of support.

These locations are then passed on to mental health workers to determine on whom to focus their outreach efforts.

The Care View app had already been adopted by Leeds County Council ahead of its national roll-out announcement and Jon Hindley, Public Health Localities and Primary Care Team at the council, said the app had helped find people in need of help who may have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

“Care View has allowed us a window into the sometimes lonely and isolated world of vulnerable citizens within our poorest neighbourhoods. This has been the catalyst to help people we wouldn’t have otherwise known about to reconnect with their communities, improve their health and keep it that way,” said Mr Hindley.

“The new technology that has been added will enhance the effectiveness and drive the dynamics of our community health outreach teams more than ever before. This dynamism and technological functionality can play a vital part on the road to recovery and resilience for our local Leeds residents in a post pandemic world,” he added.

The PHE survey did also find positives, with 60% of people they felt hopeful about the future and 75% reported that they were planning to take or have taken steps to look after their mental wellbeing.

Find out more about the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign on the new website https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/

If you feel you or a loved one are in need of emergency mental support; you can find your local NHS 24/7 helpline at www.nhs.uk/urgentmentalhealth

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