Coronavirus (COVID-19): Mental Health Research Advisory Group minutes - April 2020

Minutes from the first meeting of the group on 27 April 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Andrew Gumley (Chair), University of Glasgow 
  • Anne Armstrong, Scottish Government  
  • Angela Davidson, Scottish Government
  • Innes Fyfe, Scottish Government  
  • Jessica Galway (minute), Scottish Government 
  • Emma Hogg, Public Health Scotland 
  • Alan McNair, Scottish Government  
  • Dr John Mitchell, Scottish Government  
  • Alix Rosenberg, Scottish Government     
  • Sarah Martin, Scottish Government   
  • Stephen Mcleod, Scottish Government  
  • Rory O’Connor, University of Glasgow  


  • Carol Brown, Scottish Government 
  • Hugh McAloon, Scottish Government  
  • Ally Winford, Scottish Government 

Items and actions


The chair welcomed attendees to the call and thanked them for joining the first meeting of the Advisory Group. 

Review of draft terms of reference (ToR)

The Chair invited comments from members on the draft Terms of Reference for the Advisory Group: 


It was noted that further consideration should be given as to how the group will “act as a central coordinating point for translating COVID-19 mental health research findings into advice to Government” as outlined in paragraph 1.3.

It was noted that policy representation on the group would be essential to this function. The group will be a space for policy colleagues to ask questions and gather views to help shape and develop policy that is led by the evidence and research available. 

Aims and scope 

Members agreed the aims and scope of the group as set out in section 2 of the ToR.

Members agreed to amend paragraph 2.2 so that membership to the group would be regularly reviewed to reflect the changing landscape as we move through the recovery and renewal phases of the pandemic. 

It was also noted that the work of the group would be a largely iterative process rather than making a formal report with recommendations.   

Advisory Group activities 

Members agreed the activities of the group as outlined in section 3 of the ToR. 

Members agreed that the group would meet on a six weekly basis but noted that these would be largely treated as an opportunity to check in on work being taken forward in between meetings. 

Alan McNair informed the group that the Chief Scientist Office had launched a specific funding call for COVID-19 projects. Alan agreed to extract projects focused on mental health impacts funded through the above call and circulate to members when available. 


Prior to reviewing the membership as set out in the draft ToR, the Chair invited members to introduce themselves and set out what they would hope to contribute the group: 

Stephen Mcleod, is an advisor to the Scottish Government, and has been supporting work on performance and CAMHS service reform. Stephen is currently working with the Mental Health Services team to support health boards to continue to deliver services through the pandemic. 

Alix Rosenberg, is a researcher in Health and Social Care Analysis Directorate and provides analytical support within the mental health directorate. Alix is also involved in the joint work with Public Health Scotland to map analytical priorities across the two organisations. 

Innes Fyfe, is Head of Public Mental Health policy whose work includes the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group. Innes is currently leading the workstream on the COVID-19 mental health public messaging and additional support to the wider population.  

Sarah Martin is an statistician embedded within the Mental Health Directorate and provides support to mental health policy development as well as expertise on survey development. Sarah has also been involved in the joint work with Public Health Scotland.  

Anne Armstrong, is a mental health nursing advisor to the Scottish Government and works across a number of policy areas including HSC staff wellbeing during the pandemic. 

Emma Hogg, is an organisational lead on public mental health within Public Health Scotland. Emma is leading work in Public Health Scotland to establish joint planning for the analytical approach to covid-19 and mental health across SG and PHS.

Alan McNair, is a senior research manager within the Chief Scientist’s Office. The Chief Scientist’s Office has policy responsibility to fund research and fellowships to support Health and Social Care. 

Angela Davidson, is a Deputy Director within the Mental Health Directorate and can provide linkages into the Minister for Mental Health and support the translation of research findings into policy action.  

Dr John Mitchell, is the interim Principal Medical Officer and will support facilitation within this group and provide clinical advice within the role until Alastair Cooke is able to take up the position. 

The chair then asked members to reflect if there was any gaps in the membership. 

Members agreed that the National Suicide Prevention Academic Advisory Group should be represented on the Group’s membership. The chair agreed to write to the co-chairs of the Academic Advisory Group, Prof. Rory O’Connor and Prof. Steve Platt, to formally invite a single representative to join this group. 

It was suggested that the group would benefit from lived experience representation and that this should be include a broad range of people including those who haven’t accessed mental health services. 

It was noted that Voices of Experience (VOX) is an arm of the Mental Health Foundation and that having the Foundation as a representative on the group would be an important link for lived experience. 

Members also agreed that the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland should be invited to join the group as they would help support the inclusion of broader lived experience, including those who haven’t access MH services.

Members also agreed to explore having representation from social work and social sciences through the Chief Social Worker and through Public Health Scotland linkages. 

Members discussed the need to include specific population groups, such as children and young people, within the Advisory Group’s membership. It was agreed that members would be important to linking wider groups and networks into the work of the Advisory Group and that the group’s membership would be regularly reviewed to include further representation from these groups as needed.   


  • amend ToR to reflect agreed changes
  • Alan McNair to circulate list of Mental Health funded projects from Chief Scientists Office when available
  • Chair to write to co-chairs of National Suicide Prevention Academic Advisory Group to invite one or both of them to join the Advisory Group
  • Chair to issue invitations to Health and Social Care Alliance and Mental Health Foundation to join the Advisory Group
  • John Mitchell to explore links to social work and social sciences  

SG/PHS analytical planning and structures 

Emma Hogg gave an overview of the work being carried out by Public Health Scotland and Scottish Government to integrate the analytical work plan across the two organisations. 

It was noted that there is an ongoing exercise to map out ongoing surveys and research in relation to COVID-19. PHS colleagues will be interrogating the studies to ascertain which have sufficiently robust methodology and to identify gaps in the literature. 

Emma also noted that Public Health England are compiling a daily collation of Covid-19 research articles and that this often includes articles related to mental health.

It was also noted that there is ongoing evaluation work to support both the Distress Brief Intervention roll out and public mental health messaging through ‘Clear Your Head’. 

Members agreed the need to carry out a rapid evidence review of the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and previous pandemics. 

Sarah, Alix and Emma agreed to meet and discuss separately how to take that work forward and report back to the group. 


  • PHS and SG analytical colleagues to meet to discuss rapid evidence review and report back to chair/group

AOB and close 

Members agreed to meet again in six weeks (8th June).

Mental health and COVID-19: evidence briefing
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