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Researching the nation’s mental wellbeing in a ‘new normal’

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Charu Agarwal Associate Director 05/20/2020

Coronavirus tracker: May 20th 2020

The pandemic is a wake-up call for making mental health a priority across all aspects of future policymaking

We as researchers can also help our clients give a voice to those whose wellbeing has been affected by reactive policies in times of crisis

Around a third of the public have seen their mental health worsen in May since the coronavirus outbreak, according to the latest data from our COVID-19 public perceptions tracker. This has fluctuated marginally, with the proportion citing poorer mental health falling anywhere between 30-34% across the month. Nonetheless, our latest research saw this figure peak at 35% on Sunday; significantly higher than when we first asked the question back on April 9th (29%).

Over the coming weeks, as new policies are announced to move us towards a ‘new normal’, continued study of this metric will be critical for sector leaders and specifically those looking to influence or shape the debate around the delivery of mental health services and the targeting of resources.

Directing attention to the most vulnerable or impacted groups 

Whilst population data like this can provide a holistic view of public mood, it can inevitably lead to more questions. Such is true for many of our charity and public sector clients who are looking to more targeted research to understand how the landscape is changing for the most vulnerable members of society. For example, our recent polling for Scope highlighted concerns of disabled people still not able to access delivery slots or the essential goods they need.

Beyond specific patient groups and service-users, we as researchers can also help our clients give a voice to those whose wellbeing has been affected by reactive policies in times of crisis.

For example, speaking to teachers, parents and pupils can educate us in real-time of both the positive and negative consequences mass migration to online education systems and of primary schools opening in June.

Through targeted research, we also can map levels of resilience and morale among our essential workers onto changes to the structures that they rely on at home, work and in their local services. In doing so, charities and public bodies are in a better place to deeply understand the priorities for future legislation and public health actions that will best support population wellbeing.

Giving prominence to mental health in policy decision-making 

Understanding how structural changes to our daily lives are connected to our wellbeing and sense of security as a society has been a prominent topic for mental health charities and public health bodies.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Mental Health Foundation released a statement advocating for public policy that is increasingly routed in kindness. Or in other words, consideration of the dignity of human beings in policymaking, whether that’s in infrastructure and housing sectors, finance, education, or the criminal justice system. With this in mind, the coming weeks and months present an opportunity for research around basic human experience, thereby giving a voice to the most emotionally vulnerable and at-risk members of society and providing clarity on the complex network of factors influencing population wellbeing.

Find out more about our daily coronavirus tracker or charities and not-for-profit work.

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