Mental health toll of lockdown with Daisy Fancourt and Farhana Mann

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In the UK, we are currently in the midst of our third lockdown since the pandemic began, and there has been a huge surge in people experiencing mental distress, anxiety and depression during the past year. The novelty of the first lockdown, in which people optimistically took up a variety of new activities, such as learning a language or baking endless loaves of banana bread, has long worn off, and many people now feel like they’ve used up their “coping resources”. Confusing public health messaging has led to great uncertainty, a feeling that we’re having to put our lives on hold, and dwindling hope. In this week’s episode, we discuss the difficulty of measuring the mental health impact of the pandemic, and how other issues (such as financial strain or bereavement) may cause long-term mental health problems. We also talk about loneliness: how to approach the subject with our patients, and the role that social prescribing may play in tackling it. Our guests; Daisy Fancourt is an associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at UCL. She is the lead researcher on the COVID-19 social study, (https://www.covidsocialstudy.org/) which looks at the psychological and societal impact of the pandemic, and she is also the director of the COVID-Minds Network (https://www.covidminds.org/). Dr. Farhana Mann is a psychiatrist in London and Wellcome Clinical Research Fellow at the Division of Psychiatry, UCL. She has been on the government advisory group on tackling loneliness, and is part of the UKRI Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Network, led by UCL. Additional resources/further reading: 'A life less lonely: the state of the art in interventions to reduce loneliness in people with mental health problems' https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-017-1392-y 'Loneliness in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic: Cross-sectional results from the COVID-19 Psychological Wellbeing Study' https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7513993/ 'Understanding loneliness in the twenty-first century: an update on correlates, risk factors, and potential solutions' Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology (2020) 55:793–810 https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01889-7 UCL Network is @ucl_loneliness on Twitter, and they are a good place to start if looking for updates on the field. People are very welcome to get in touch via the website too: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychiatry/research/epidemiology-and-applied-clinical-research-department/loneliness-and-social-isolation

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