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NHS workers at the frontline of the tackling COVID-19 pandemic are facing a multitude of challenges; operationally, physically, and relating to their own to mental health. Colleagues at the Institute for Mental Health (IMH) are supporting these individuals in a number of ways. 

Professor Matthew Broome, Director of the Institute for Mental Health explains;

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical academics from the IMH have been supporting the mental health services across Birmingham by taking on additional clinical duties and by being redeployed to cover colleagues who have been unwell, or those who have to isolate and shield.  A number of clinical academics from the Institute have been working with the teams at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to provide a psychological support service to NHS staff working acutely with those with the COVID-19.  In addition, we have staffed a crisis and triage service in UHB for clinicians who may experience acute mental health distress.

“In parallel to these clinical activities, we have been developing our research response to COVID-19.  Those who have recovered from the acute infection can be left with ongoing problems. We are developing research with colleagues at UHB, the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and nationally, around the immune-related, neuropsychiatric consequences of COVID-19 including cognitive impairment, seizures, depression, psychosis and fatigue. We also have work ongoing in collaboration with Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and with HSBC examining and intervening in bullying in schools. Lockdown has led to new challenges for schoolchildren, parents, and teachers and we are collaborating with schools across the city to examine trauma and bullying during this period, and to support teachers and parents, and guide the return to school. 

“At the IMH, we have a long-standing interest in the relationship between social media and health. We are studying how COVID-19 is discussed on-line, and the connections with both physical activity and with discussions of self-harm. With colleagues across campus, we are developing work around trust and perception of scientific expertise in its relation to mental health and risk-taking.  Existing collaborations, including our work with the Midlands Engine, is examining the mental health consequences of home working and social distances in the workplace, and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health advocacy.

“We have been working with colleagues at Birmingham Health Partners to support content for the new website Mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19.

“In addition to our clinical and research activity, we have continued to support our staff and students and develop our novel interdisciplinary MSc in Mental Health with colleagues in the Higher Education Futures institute.  We hope this will be of great value in developing our workforce in research and practice to address the ‘new normal’ we will all have to negotiate and, in particular, the profound consequences for mental health and equality that will be created by COVID-19.”