From the President, March 2021

The latest from Dr Hazel McLaughlin.

As the pandemic continues, it is a time to reflect as well as to take action. As Jawaharial Nehru said, ‘Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think’.

For psychology, this means that we need to be agile and responsive as well as resilient. But it is also an opportunity to innovate and to change the way we achieve our goals. We recognise that, as social beings, what is important is relationships, and this includes those small interactions and positive and unexpected words of encouragement from others.

At the time of writing, the UK has just passed the unimaginable milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid. There is a degree of hope on the horizon with the rollout of vaccines – a fantastic scientific achievement in just over a year. The focus is to keep people safe, but also to recognise the challenges and to support mental and physical wellbeing.

Throughout the course of this year, the BPS has been working on your behalf and we have produced more than 70 resources and numerous webinars. The role of psychology is critical, both in terms of mental health and wellbeing but also adapting and coping with the challenges of this global crisis. Psychology and psychologists are supporting people from all walks of life, and make a difference for individuals as well as at a structural and systemic level. Thank you to all who have contributed to this work.

In the news we hear about the availability and the rollout of vaccines, and time is often given to understanding why some people are hesitant about taking a vaccine. As psychologists, we must challenge misinformation and have a duty to provide clear information on public health issues. This communication needs to be clear, transparent, and effective. This enables us to communicate beyond the scientific research and in a way that is relevant and supportive of the public but also accurate and based on the research and scientific evidence.

We also need to consider recovery, and how we can help those who have been affected by the pandemic. This is particularly true for young people, with a recent report by the Children’s Commissioner suggesting that one in six children has struggled with a mental health issue during lockdown. In the wider population, a study by the University of East Anglia found that, on average, people drank more alcohol, ate less healthily, and exercised less frequently during lockdown.

Unfortunately, we know that it is likely that the UK will continue with some form of restrictions for some time to come, so there is an opportunity for psychologists to be more proactive in the way we support people to live more healthily during these uncertain times.

This is also true in terms of promoting health and wellbeing for our colleagues and ourselves. Reducing isolation and staying in contact with friends and family where we can do so safely is vital right now. This is an issue that transcends international borders, and I am currently contributing to the Global Psychology Alliance, which is seeking to understand more about the impact of social isolation on people’s mental health across the globe.

I encourage you to take a fresh look at the resources produced by the BPS Covid-19 taskforce and coordination group, for nuggets of information and suggestions that will support others. The ‘lost and found’ theme of this issue reminds me to think about what is important in our lives and to focus on those around us. With that in mind, I also want to thank you for the excellent response to the launch of the Presidential Development Fund. This is a practical way to support psychology and psychologists in these uncertain and challenging times. There is still time to get involved, either by contributing to the fund or as a prospective beneficiary. Take a look at bpspresidentialfund.co.uk. To quote Dr Seuss, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’

- Dr Hazel McLaughlin is President of the British Psychological Society. Contact her at [email protected]

Contact her at [email protected]

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber