Keeping up with the psychology of the pandemic

Ella Rhodes on recent coverage.

With the UK living in lockdown the British Psychological Society and The Psychologist are continuing to produce a wealth of Covid-related resources, stories and psychological perspectives online. We continue to add to our online collection of coronavirus perspectives at tinyurl.com/PsychmagCorona – articles stretching back to March consider the public response to the virus, the science of the government’s approach, the virus itself, lockdown living and much more. 

Recently we heard from clinical psychologist Dr Sobia Khan, based on the Royal Stoke University Hospital’s critical care unit, who has been supporting Covid patients to recover mentally as well as physically. In a fascinating article psychologists and other professionals from the London Youth Justice CAMHS forum shared what they had heard from the youth justice population about the impact of Covid-19. Dr Seonaid Anderson, Chartered Psychologist and freelance neurodiversity consultant, also had an interesting chat with Becky Simpson about being a therapist with Tourette’s syndrome during Covid-19. Robert Bor describes the role of a psychologist in critical care settings. Kathryn Lloyd-Williams, with input from colleagues in healthcare settings, pushes back against the 'hero' narrative. And Jose Catalan and Damien Ridge look to HIV for pathways out of the Covid-19 pandemic

In December, we reported on a session of the House of Lords Covid-19 Select Committee which asked psychologists and psychiatrists their thoughts on the future of technology use, its impact on our mental health and the delivery of mental health services online. The gathered witnesses included Professor of Clinical Psychology Kate Cavanagh (University of Sussex), and Dr Linda Kaye Chair of the British Psychological Society’s (BPS) Cyberpsychology section. 

At the end of that report, we called for views from psychologists about the impact of Covid on access to psychological services, and whether such access has become more unequal for some during the pandemic. If you have any insight please email [email protected]. On a related note, The Guardian recently published an article on a supposed increase on antidepressant prescribing rates during the pandemic – an assertion which drew criticism from some psychologists. Professor Jonathan Roiser said on Twitter that the article’s claims were ‘hyperbolic and unhelpful’. Dr Vaughan Bell pointed out that data from Open Prescribing showed that the highest three-month total of antidepressant prescribing in England was before the pandemic in January to March 2020. He added that the ‘drop in therapy referrals is concerning regardless though’, and that ‘it’s currently difficult to disentangle whether this is for pragmatic reasons (making follow-up appointments further in the future, reducing visits) or for clinical reasons (higher dosage, longer treatment).’ 

The BPS and its Covid-19 Coordinating Group are still busy producing documents to support professionals and the public during the pandemic – including a leaflet on romantic and intimate relationships during continuing lockdowns. After a rapid review of evidence of how people may respond to public health messaging the BPS has also released a guide to delivering effective public health campaigns during the pandemic; this covers ways to reach those people who do not think they are at risk, communicating with diverse communities, increasing trust, and clear consistent messaging. 

Many of the coordinating group’s resources from early 2020 are also still useful – they include resources for coping with bereavement, talking to children about coronavirus, and advice for psychological professionals on how to adapt to using online services. All of these resources can be found via www.bps.org.uk/coronavirus-resources

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