Virtual meeting for Mental Health Awareness Day - 9th October 2020

To mark World Mental Health Day, members of the SAPC Mental Health Special Interest Group (MH SIG) ‘met’ virtually, for an hour, on 9th October 2020. This was an informal meeting, replacing the meetings that would have been held at the Primary Care MH meeting in York in May 2020 ( and SAPC Annual Scientific Meeting in July. Fourteen academics attended, including Professor Amanda Howe (President of the Royal College of General Practitioners), Ian Maidment (Reader in Clinical Pharmacy at Aston University) and Heike Bartel (Associate Professor of German Studies, University of Nottingham) demonstrating the reach of SAPC.

We offered an open forum for discussion, with no fixed agenda, but posed two questions: what has been the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on our research and how we have overcome difficulties/learned to do things differently, and what will be the important mental health research questions over next year?

Individuals talked about how they had moved research online (i.e. consent forms, assessments, qualitative interviews) and the advantages and challenges of doing so, and the struggles they had experienced securing excess treatment costs (ETCs) and ethical approval (these were not directly related to COVID but process that had become increasing difficult in the last year). It was also mentioned that early career researchers had struggled to progress their academic careers and research plans due to limited support from more senior academics, who had needed to focus on COVID research or clinical duties.

In terms of future research questions, it was agreed that the mental health of young people and the elderly, inequalities in access to services, the wellbeing of minority groups and clinicians, would all be important areas. Other areas discussed included effectiveness of ‘huddles’, Balint groups and Schwartz rounds in increasing resilience of primary care staff; evaluation of new models of care; impact of redundancy; Inequality (in multiple forms: BAME, digital exclusion, economic - all compounded by COVID-19); Impact on people with dementia (progression of condition: due to reduction in social interaction) and carers (wellbeing: due to reduction in respite etc.); Anxiety (potential upsurge in social anxiety [at various ages] and the impact this will have on engagement with services; what impact will this have on managing existing conditions or consulting about new ones?); How to build on existing resources, use of community assets.

We also discussed how we had stayed well during lockdown. Being outdoors was a strong theme:

Heike shared her current work on eating disorders in men which you might like to investigate:

Katrina mentioned the online ‘Good Grief’ festival:

We agreed that it would be good to focus on something positive and to identify lessons learned in lockdown that could be built upon (where are the stories of resilience, hope and adaptation in a crisis?).

We reflected that the meeting had felt good and positive, and that this was something we wished to continue. We are planning a further meeting on 5th February 2020 (2-3pm). The group is open to all SAPC members who have an interest in mental health, and new members would be very welcome. 

See  for further information about SAPC and how to join (if your membership has lapsed).

Finally, ‘save the date’ for the Primary Care Mental Health Conference – 26th May 2021 – will be held virtually. Registration free.