Here’s how King’s is helping tackle the mental health impact of COVID19

49% of people reported feeling more anxious or depressed than usual because of the virus

King’s College London has published survey results about the effect COVID-19 is having on individuals mental health.

King’s have played a large role in managing the physical impact of the COVID19 outbreak, with many cases being seen at Guy’s and St Thomas’, as well as the launch of their symptom tracking app. However, attention is now also being paid to the mental health problems associated with the pandemic.

A preliminary survey by King’s was completed by 2250 UK residents aged 18-75.

The survey revealed that almost half of people (49%) are feeling more anxious or depressed than usual, with 38% sleeping less than they normally would. 35% of people are eating more junk food than usual, and 19% are drinking more alcohol.

All of these lifestyle changes are associated with a number of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.

To help understand further the impact that COVID19 is having, the King’s IOPPN is launching a second study which aims to recruit 5000 people.

Psychologist Dr James Findon is one of the researchers working on the study, and he said this about the potential mental health crisis caused by COVID19:

“The pandemic has caused massive changes in how we live our lives. These changes might be particularly difficult for people with existing psychological conditions.

“It is vital that we understand the differential impact of the pandemic on these individuals, to tailor support and inform public health policy.

“In the UK, millions of people are living with mental health conditions. Poor access to treatment and social stigma are still prevalent. In a pandemic, people with psychological conditions are generally more susceptible to infections for several reasons. They are also more exposed to pandemic-related impacts like unemployment, closure of services and loss of social contact.

“Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a corresponding epidemic of fear and anxiety. People with existing psychological conditions might feel this most and this could cause relapses or worsening of already significant symptoms.

“One of the many awful things about pandemics is that they often disproportionally affect vulnerable populations and make existing inequalities worse. Our study won’t be able to fix all these problems, but it will help to inform public health policy to address the impact of the pandemic of these groups.”

The crisis is also likely to affect some groups more than others. Asian students have been reporting increased instances of harassment and racial abuse, with one King’s student being told to ‘go back to China’ after coughing on the tube.

King’s have implemented multiple measures to help students who are negatively impacted by the coronavirus, including simplified mitigating circumstances procedure. Many courses have also introduced exam cancellations and a safety net policy to try and avoid negative impacts on their grades.

However, with most students moving off-campus there is reduced access to vital counselling services, which are already over-subscribed, leaving some students waiting months for an appointment.

Students who’d like to participate in the survey can complete it using this link.

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