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James Swaffield

NCASC 20: reflections on the ‘Minding the mental health gap’ session

Today’s NCASC session on ‘Minding the mental health gap – leading the mental health recovery for individuals, families and communities’ shone a focused light on the profound mental health challenges we are facing now, and will continue to face for many years to come.

We are going through a collective trauma event caused by Covid 19 now, but we are not all experiencing it in the same way.

Evidence showed that prior to Covid, children from the poorest 20% of households are four times more likely to have serious mental health difficulties. This disproportionate impact has been amplified by Covid, and we know the highest impact mental health at risk groups now are:

  • Children and Young People
  • Those managing long-term conditions
  • BAME communities
  • Older people
  • Those on the lowest incomes, and
  • Prisoners

Supporting those most at risk will be an imperative for all places over the next years.

At a much smaller level we have been thinking hard about how this collective trauma event has affected us and affected the areas we are supporting.

Internally we have commissioned research into resilience and how we can best enable our team during this time, working with The University of Manchester, and from that revised how we work, support needs, and establish information and advice.

For local government and the NHS, discussion during the event highlighted the importance of three areas to support proactive management of this new need:

  1. Working with schools to support them as they will be early identification points for children, young people and families who are suffering.
  2. Focus on measures to support those that have lost their employment, and pilot at scale schemes to support reintegration.
  3. Build a common approach and goal between mental health teams and the voluntary and community sector – the VCS will be integral to response, not only an add-on.

Supporting mental health (not simply addressing mental illness) will be all our priorities for the next half-decade. Working on understanding the scale of the issue and building a trusted coalition beyond just those in the NHS and local government is now a must for all, to best meet need and manage inequalities going forward.

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