*CONTENT WARNING – eating disorders, mental health, loneliness*
Dr Lindsay Dewa is an Advanced Research Fellow in Mental Health at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London
We all experienced COVID-19. Being socially isolated from those we loved was really difficult for most of us, and had a real impact on our mental health and wellbeing such as loneliness. 75% of mental health disorders start before the age 24, and young people were already going through challenging transitions: from school into employment, college and university, and maybe new relationships. But then COVID-19 struck and these transitions were made all the more difficult.
By Dr Lindsay Dewa, Advanced Research Fellow, NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, IGHI
I have been aware of mental health from an early age. I just didn’t know it was called that at the time! I remember feeling deeply about things and wanting to make sure everyone was okay if they looked sad or down. It was then only natural that I leaned towards getting a degree in psychology – the science of the mind and behaviour. I then completed my MSc in research methods and forensic psychology. This naturally led me to embarking on a PhD studying sleep and mental health in prison populations.
I have spent the last 18 months encouraging effective international responses to COVID-19. I have learned that the coordinated and connected responses needed for responses to global threats are not easily achieved in today’s world. Yet unless nations can find ways to agree on the challenge, combine their responses and work willingly in synergy, success will be elusive.
Building the habit of working together is even more important when tackling climate change and its consequences. This particularly applies when exploring how changing climates affect people’s mental wellbeing.
There is indeed mounting evidence that climate change is affecting people’s minds as well as their bodies.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact poor mental health had on companies, individuals and national economies was staggering. The World Economic Forum has estimated $16 trillion lost to the economy by 2030.
Growing up in a Caribbean family that had experienced various traumas and challenges, I had some awareness of how mental illness impacted myself and my relatives. However, it wasn’t until I attended a masterclass last year on Black mental health hosted by BAME in Psychiatry & Psychology and the Centre of Pan African Thought that I realised the nuanced challenges faced by members of the Black community.
People with dementia are some of the most vulnerable, most isolated, and least able to adapt. COVID-19 has therefore made our work with Imperial College’s UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research and Technology Centre all the more urgent.
The Centre develops technologies for a smart ‘Healthy Home environment‘, supported by remote clinical monitoring, to improve the lives of people affected by dementia and further our understanding of this common disease.
The technology aims to make an impact in a number of ways, including early identification of infection, preventing falls, understanding the relationship between sleep and dementia symptoms, and predicting and managing agitation and difficult behaviours.
For young men who identify as black and minority ethnic (BME), mental health is not always an easy topic to discuss. Many feel restricted by fear, stigma and barriers inside and outside of the communities they are part of. For some, the available support isn’t appropriate for their needs.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to reflect on what needs to change, but also to celebrate the people who are working to make sure positive change happens. Like Dr Lindsay Dewa, IGHI Research Fellow and mental health expert.
We caught up with Lindsay to find out about her mental health research, her path into academia, and why she’s excited about what the future might hold.
For the UK workforce, the challenge of mental health at work is significant.
There is an ongoing stigma that prevents an open discussion on the topic. And with more people working longer hours, uncertainty in job security and a lack of understanding about mental health, this a problem which has repercussions for both employers and employees.
On a basic level, all humans really need to survive is air, water, food and sleep. We need to sleep every night to give our body important R&R, among many other things. And research has shown how getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for our mental health and wellbeing.
When we sleep well, we’re more likely to have greater concentration, be in a better mood and get things done. In contrast, when we don’t, we can really see and feel the opposite effect. While we all have a poor night’s sleep from time to time, we know that people in prison and forensic mental health hospitals in the UK struggle more than most.