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Following on from the ecda project looking at the societal impact of Covid-19 and the surrounding environment on vulnerable children and young people, we have now joined data from across Essex to look at how mental health services and residents’ personal mental health needs have been affected over the past year. 

Our work has combined analytical approaches with national research and local service perspectives to gain a holistic understanding on what has been happening and why. Through building this understanding, we are in a stronger position to hypothesise about what happens next – and what demand for our services, and design of our operations, may look like over the next 1-2 years. 

We have all seen a multitude of stories across the media with the same underlying rhetoric, “a mental health crisis is on the horizon” or “we expect a tsunami of psychiatric illness”. However, our analysis has evidenced that people within Essex are not accessing the usual support services.  Patterns of demand have drastically changed, but perhaps not how we would expect given the media narrative.  Within Essex there have been significantly fewer referrals to mental health support services and treatment programmes on a consistent basis – particularly in the first six months of the pandemic. 

There are a number of possible reasons for this, notably: people accessing alternative (and possibly less intrusive) low level support; individuals priorities focussed elsewhere; and also some likely latent demand forming that could materialise as the world returns to something resembling normality. 

Our forecasting work indicates that we should expect a prolonged period of increased demand for mental health services over the next 2 years.  However, there has been an increased focus on personal wellbeing and mental health, and a narrative that has focused on reducing stigma around seeking support. There is a great opportunity to work collaboratively to shape the future of mental health service delivery. We’re happy to share the detailed insights from our analysis, together with new insights from joining health and social care data to gain a deeper understanding of mental health crisis, please contact us at ecda@essex.gov.uk if you’re interested in learning more.