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

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 8 June 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Andrew Gumley (Chair), University of Glasgow 
  • Anne Armstrong (AA), Scottish Government  
  • Innes Fyfe (IF), Scottish Government  
  • Jessica Galway (minute), Scottish Government 
  • Emma Hogg (EH), Public Health Scotland 
  • Ruth Flynn (RF), Public Health Scotland
  • Dr John Mitchell (JM), Scottish Government  
  • Alix Rosenberg (AR), Scottish Government     
  • Sarah Martin (SM), Scottish Government   
  • Stephen Mcleod (SMc), Scottish Government  
  • Professor Rory O’Connor (RO), NSPLG Academic Reference Group 
  • Lucy Mulvagh (LM), Health and Social Care Alliance 
  • Lee Knifton (LK), Mental Health Foundation 
  • Neil Quinn (NQ), University of Strathclyde
  • Professor Matthias Schwannauer (MS), University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Steve Platt (SP), NSPLG Academic Reference Group


  • Alan McNair, Scottish Government  

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions: 

The Chair welcomed members to the meeting and invited introductions from the new members of the group: 

  • Lee Knifton – Mental Health Foundation
  • Lucy Mulvagh - Health and Social Care Alliance
  • Neill Quinn – University of Strathclyde 
  • Professor Matthias Schwannauer – University of Edinburgh  
  • Professor Steve Platt- Co-chair National Suicide Prevention Leadership Academic Reference Group

Terms of reference review: 

The Chair asked members to turn their attention to the updated terms of reference document. The Chair highlighted the purpose and function of the group to members. 

Action 1:

  • add Anne Armstrong to membership in terms of reference document

HSCA briefing: 

AR presented an update on the two research briefings compiled by Health and Social Care Analysis. She asked members for views on the frequency and format of these briefings and whether they should be done on a thematic or based around specific questions. 

IF thanked Alix for the briefing reports and noted that they were very valuable. IF noted that regular, higher level surveillance on emerging evidence would be helpful alongside more in-depth thematic reports as and when required. 

RO also noted that the briefings were helpful and noted that it would be useful to link future versions to questions. He agreed that a dual approach would be most effective – having lighter touch monthly reports in addition to quarterly reports on more substantial thematic overviews. 

SP noted the importance of understanding the audience of these briefings. SP further noted that putting clear caveats on the robustness of methodology used in the studies would be important.

EH noted that there is huge demand and interest in what emerging research and evidence on the impact of COVID-19 is showing and that briefings such as these, with caveats on methodology included, are a helpful resource.

Action 2:

  • future HSCA briefings will take a dual approach: monthly surveillance reporting on emerging evidence and quarterly reports on thematic questions arising from Advisory Group  

Rapid evidence review 

RF presented an update on the Rapid Evidence Review authored by Public Health Scotland in collaboration with Scottish Government. 

LM welcomed the report and noted the importance of taking a nuanced approach to reviewing the evidence and taking into account equalities considerations and intersectionality going forward. 

Members were asked to consider how this review should be used going forward. EH proposed that the review should be published on the PHS website and should be circulated to Directors of Public Health and other stakeholders. It was also suggested that the review should be shared with leads of studies funded through the Chief Scientist Office’s recent funding call and other interested academics. 

SP noted that there should be more information in the paper about the limitations of the evidence base and that this should be included at the start of the document. It was also suggested that it be a living document, updated as more evidence emerges.  

AR noted that in future iterations of the document, there would be a more focused questions and that inclusion criteria would be honed further. 

JM thanked RF for the paper and noted that the delivery of the review in such a short space of time was particularly impressive. He noted that it is important to share this document and the work of the group more widely. JM noted that the Minister for Mental Health would be making a statement to parliament on Mental Health Transition and Recovery which talks to the importance of having an evidence-led approach to our mental health policy response.

The Chair agreed that it would be useful to make the review into a living document, noting the importance of recognising that the mental health impacts of the pandemic will not be evenly spread across the population.


  • Chair to write a letter to notify wider stakeholders on the work of the group and to accompany the distribution of the rapid evidence review and the HSCA briefings. Members are asked to share contacts of individuals/networks that this should be distributed to

Updates from members: 

The Chair invited members to share relevant updates on emerging research, evidence and studies they are involved with or aware of. 

SP updated members that he is involved a systematic review on the impact of infectious disease-related public health emergencies on suicide, suicidal behaviour, and suicidal thoughts. 

RO is leading on the Scottish COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Tracker study. The study launched on 28th May and is halfway through its target sample.

NQ updated members on a study being undertaken with the Mental Health Foundation on the impact of the pandemic on public mental health and disparities.

Top questions/priorities for the Advisory Group:  

The Chair asked members to share views on what they consider to be the top three research questions that need to be answered to support development of mental health response to covid-19 impacts. 

LK noted that the group should have a focus on policy and practice solutions. This should include analysis of the impact of international policy responses/ interventions by those countries who experienced outbreaks at an earlier stage of the global pandemic. 

JM suggested that understanding the impact of the pandemic on children and young people was also an important priority to understand what the legacy on mental health and wellbeing might be into the future. 

The chair also noted the importance of understanding the impact on equalities.

The chair asked members to consider this further and to feed in their views via email. 


The Chair thanked members for their contribution

The next meeting will be held on the 13th July. 

Mental health and COVID-19: evidence briefing (2)
Back to top