Mental health support being ramped up in the West Midlands as pandemic takes its toll



West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is ramping up mental health support as the Covid-19 crisis continues.

It comes as a new report by the Centre for Mental Health suggests around 8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children in England are likely to need mental health support following the pandemic.

Mental health support being ramped up in the West Midlands as pandemic takes its toll

Credit: Nik Shuliahin

The support from WMCA will include:
• a push for more mental health first aiders
• increased take up of the NHS Every Mind Matters programme
• increased suicide prevention
• improvement treatment for offenders with poor mental health.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands said: ““The challenges we have collectively faced have been immense and will unquestionably have impacted on people’s mental health.

“Never before has the work of the Combined Authority in helping people’s mental health and physical wellbeing been more important.

“It is crucial people are fit and well as we pull together to help our region recover from the impacts of this pandemic.”

The figures about the impact of Covid-19 on mental health have been set out in a new study by the Centre for Mental Health working with NHS England and NHS trusts. It highlighted that people will mostly need help for depression and anxiety, but also for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It points out that some people will have lost jobs, others will have lost loved ones, and some will be dealing with the long-term effects of having Covid-19.

It suggests two-thirds of people will already have existing mental health difficulties and may be receiving support, but others will need help for the first time. It also predicts that among people who have not experienced mental ill health prior to the pandemic, demand for services is forecast at 1.33 million people for moderate-severe anxiety and 1.82 million for moderate to severe depression.

The WMCA recently conducted a Radical Health Impact of Covid review. This has identified a number of key health inequality issues of which mental health will be a key component. This collaborative project will push for commitments to be undertaken with partners and stakeholders to ensure equity in the delivery of our services to reach the most vulnerable.

In 2016 the WMCA established a mental health commission to tackle the issue of poor mental health across the region which costs the wider economy £16bn a year. Since then it has supported the training of 43,000 mental health first aiders and will now be supporting more training across the region.

The WMCA will also be actively promoting the Every Mind Matters programme which signposts residents to a free NHS-approved online guide to help them identify, manage and get help for mental health problems. Already 160,000 people across the whole of the Midlands have signed up for this and WMCA will be working to increase the number of subscribers. It will also expand its support of suicide prevention awareness in the West Midlands.

Finally, the pioneering criminal justice approach designed to boost rehabilitation and reduce re-offending among vulnerable offenders will be expanded. The scheme was established after the Bradley report identified that there are more people with mental ill health in prison than ever before and that being in custody can increase the risk of suicide and self-harm.

This work forms part of the refreshed WMCA Thrive 2031 Mental Health Strategy which seeks to amplify the work already undertaken in the region and will seek to support this important issue.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, WMCA portfolio lead for Wellbeing and leader of Warwickshire County Council said: “The pandemic has affected us all and the message ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ is more relevant than it has ever been.

“The statistics for the new report on mental health are worrying however the WMCA is already taking steps to address poor mental health across the region.”

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