Optimising Wellbeing during Self-isolation
People with severe mental ill health (SMI) such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder experience some of the most profound health inequalities of any sector of society and are at greater risk of being affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic restrictions. There are multiple reasons for this; they are more likely to live in disadvantaged circumstances and are less likely to be digitally connected and therefore may experience difficulties in maintaining social networks and accessing services which have gone online. Furthermore, many people with SMI have long term physical health problems, putting them in a vulnerable group that must isolate for long periods of time.
The overarching aim of the OWLS study is to understand how the current measures put in place tackle the COVID-19 pandemic impact on people with SMI by exploring their experiences of these measures. In particular we will explore the ability of people with SMI to access both primary care and mental health services, whether they are digitally connected and how they utilise digital media and the internet. We will explore whether they experience feelings of social isolation and loneliness and if they have modified their health-related behaviours to reduce the risk of COVID-19. We then aim to suggest strategies to mitigate the risk of negative effects and inform policy in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The project involves a survey and more in-depth interviews. At the centre of the project is a cohort of people with severe mental ill health who have taken part in a previous survey about health related behaviours. This cohort is part of The Closing the Gap network.