Mental health services had to implement innovations at pace to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in society could continue to access mental health support, while protecting service users and staff from the virus.
The NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network and International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) have worked together to capture these innovations. In this series of case studies from ten countries, we see examples of how mental health services have implemented innovations in response to COVID-19.
A number of key themes emerged from the case studies:
- the advantages of digital platforms in improving access
- the importance of supporting the wellbeing of staff
- using data and evaluation to drive improvements and make the financial case for innovations
- benefits of co-producing services with service users and staff
- and lessons in how the availability of innovations are communicated.
While the pandemic will leave behind it significant and long-lasting effects, it will also leave a legacy of accelerated innovations, the learning from which will not be soon forgotten. These innovations will improve mental health services across the globe long after the impact of the pandemic has abated.
While the impact of COVID-19 on mental health services may not have made front-page news, the pandemic has, and will continue to, affect services across the globe. Mental health services had to implement innovations at pace to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in society could continue to access mental health support, while protecting service users and staff from the virus. The wider impacts of the pandemic, including loneliness, bereavement and financial insecurity meant that very quickly, services reported an increase in the severity of the level of need that service users were presenting with.
Staff were also put under immense pressure, often putting themselves and their families at risk to provide care, while managing the impacts of lockdowns on their personal lives. Mental health services in different countries have their own unique challenges, but there are similar underlying issues. Learning from innovations can be shared across the globe, improving services and experiences for service users and staff.
Ireland: Pivoting to digital peer-led mental health support
A peer-led community mental health project pivoted to digital delivery to support people with lived experience of mental health difficulties.
Australia and New Zealand: Transforming support for families raising children with disabilities and developmental delays
Making it easier for families from remote and international sites to access support.
England: Taking a whole-system approach to mental wellbeing
Improving the health and wellbeing of citizens across Greater Manchester.
Malaysia: Maintaining inpatient psychiatric services
Maintaining the provision of services for service users with little access to unsubsidised or private healthcare.
Northern Ireland: Minimising disruptions to care for people living with dementia
Developing new resources to support families and staff caring for people living with dementia.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada: Supporting the wellbeing of parents raising children with disabilities and developmental delays
Vital peer support that has led to improvements in parents’ wellbeing, hope and sense of empowerment.
Ireland: Delivering home care with digital support for staff and service users
Enabling a mental health service to deliver all the same elements of its inpatient programmes to people’s homes.
Scotland: Rolling out a psychological resilience hub for children and young people
Virtual support service to help children and young people experiencing mental health issues related to the pandemic.
England: Supporting staff resilience
Providing valuable wellbeing support to NHS, social care and voluntary sector partners under increased stress during the pandemic.
Northern Ireland: Rapidly implementing virtual therapeutic solutions
Pivoting to virtual therapeutic solutions in response to the pandemic.
United States: Supporting call handlers’ mental health at a time of crisis
Equipping staff with the resilience to deal with an exponential increase in calls related to COVID-19.
Wales: Using art and health initiatives to build confidence and resilience in service users
Providing vulnerable adults with a creative outlet online to deal with the effects of the pandemic.
Canada: Providing 24/7 mental health and substance use support
Providing free, 24/7 information and support to individuals who need help with their mental health and substance use.