Study looks at pandemic's effect on mental health

Image shows five hands clasped together in a circle.

Researchers behind a major new study charting how the people of Wales have coped with coronavirus are appealing for volunteers to share their experiences.

The study, which is being led by Swansea University’s Professor Nicola Gray, is examining just what impact coronavirus has had on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the Welsh population.

Now the team is looking for people to sign up and be a part of the project which will help the NHS in Wales to not only understand the issues affecting the population in Wales, but also to shape support services for the future.

Wales Wellbeing was launched this week and sees all seven health boards in Wales working together on this unique project.

Professor Gray explained that the initial wellbeing survey would remain open for three weeks before being closed and its data analysed.  Its results would be fed back via internal reports and publications to help the NHS and its partner agencies learn how best to support the local population through the pandemic and beyond.

This process would then be repeated with other surveys over the coming months, as Welsh communities face up to the challenges of coronavirus and its consequences on the economy and employment.

Professor Gray said “This is a very important area of research that will help the NHS to track the wellbeing needs of the population over the different stages of the pandemic.

“Our findings from this, and the subsequent surveys, will be given to each health board as they become available. They can then use these findings  - and the raw data on which it is based - to see where and what kind of support is needed most and for which sectors of the population.

“Different parts of Wales may have different needs and demands at different stages of the pandemic, so it is very important to be able to tailor this provision to help people where and when they need it.”

The research group led by Professor Gray, of the University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, also consists of Professor Robert Snowden, of Cardiff University and Dr Chris O'Connor, Divisional Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

Professor Gray said the group was grateful for the assistance of online electronic survey provider Qualtrics, and the immense support given by furloughed marketing professional Stuart Williams who built the study’s website and developed its social media campaign, along with three Swansea University PhD students who had worked tirelessly on the project.

She added: “It has been heart-warming to see how everybody is working together to try to help the NHS support Welsh people with their mental health and wellbeing needs through this pandemic.

”It is at times like these that you can really see our communities unite in the best interests of all but especially in the best interests for those people who may be struggling with mental health difficulties or may be feeling lonely or socially isolated.

“I feel very proud to be Welsh at this time and to be part of the strong community within Swansea University.”

Professor Snowden said: “Coronavirus has dramatically changed our lives. For many this will have had a detrimental effect on their mental health and wellbeing, but for others it may actually have helped them to focus on what is important. Our survey will let us see how people have been affected and therefore how we can respond as a country to this new reality.”

Go to the Wales Wellbeing website to have your voice heard or find out more information.

All survey responses are anonymous. Please also tell your family, friends and networks about this important research.

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