Scottish COVID-19 Mental Health Tracker Study Wave 5 Report
This is the final report of the Scottish COVID-19 (SCOVID) Mental Health Tracker Study, covering findings for a range of mental health outcomes across all the five waves of the Study.
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The evidence from the SCOVID study, and other research conducted since spring 2020, suggests that there are inequalities in how the pandemic has affected people across the world, including in Scotland. It is important that the subgroups highlighted as vulnerable, namely young adults and women, and in particular young adults and women with a mental health condition, a physical health condition, and unpaid caring responsibilities, be prioritised when implementing mental health policy and research to mitigate the longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the mental health of the Scottish population.
We propose a number of specific recommendations for public health and policy that are based upon findings from the current report, as well as previous reports in this series, and based on findings from broader research that has been conducted across the UK and worldwide (e.g., Sinyor et al., 2021; Gunnell et al., 2020; Mental Health Foundation, 2021). As well as the vulnerable groups highlighted in the current report, policy should target people from other vulnerable groups, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds, those from ethnic minority groups, and Healthcare Workers. Specific recommendations include:
- Access to mental health care: Ensuring there is timely access to evidence-based mental health treatment and support by adequate funding for NHS and community mental health services. This may include the roll-out of evidence-informed digital eMental health interventions, particularly those following a "blended" care approach such as computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) and tele-counselling.
- Alleviating financial hardship: Implementing cross-government policies to lessen the negative impact of economic hardship and a potential increase in unemployment. In particular, consideration should be given to dealing with debt, unemployment programmes, home insecurity, and job insecurity/low pay, for example, policies to protect individuals from eviction and low wage poverty.
- Trauma-informed support and care: Supporting public sector services and providers to adopt trauma-informed approaches to help ensure the support, care, and attention is given to every individual affected by the pandemic. This includes the promotion and availability of trauma-informed guidance, values, and principles, that are provided as a framework for best-practice.
- Policy to target young people: Consider actions to minimise the long-term impact of the pandemic upon the futures of young people, including working with education to address disruption to schooling, support for mental health and creating opportunities to address harm to future career prospects.
- Policy to target other at-risk subgroups: Specific policy initiatives may be required to ensure that women, particularly those with unpaid caring responsibilities and young dependents, are supported. This may include ensuring the continued provision of community maternal mental health and early years supports, and support for unpaid carers should be made available. Policy initiatives aimed at the mental health and wellbeing of individuals with a physical health problem or disability, including addressing social isolation within these groups, should be prioritised.
- Recognition of the importance of health and social care: Providers of health and social care play an essential role in the mental health and wellbeing of people across Scotland. Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of these providers is essential in services provision as poor mental health may lead to burnout in services that are already at capacity resulting in challenges in staff retention and recruitment (Morse et al., 2021). Ensuring these services are secure, valued, appropriately trained and staffed is essential.
- Public health messaging: Public health messaging around the promotion of positive mental health strategies, including managing distress, healthy coping, and emotional resilience, should be prioritised. Messaging should also promote social cohesion , emphasising the strength of relationships and sense of solidarity among members of a community, rather than focus on divisions.
- Research into the mental health & wellbeing of the Scottish population: As we recover from the pandemic, it is important to continue to monitor the mental health and wellbeing of the Scottish population, with particular vigilance regarding subgroups who continue to be or become newly affected by the pandemic in the medium to long-term.
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