In this month’s review of published articles and pre-prints, the Early Career Committee recommends two publications on the topic of mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee considered 40 articles published this month and ranked them against core pillars of the HDR UK ethos: research quality, team science, scale, open science, patient and public involvement, and equality, diversity and inclusion.

The winning paper

The winning paper for July 2020 was “Impact on mental health care and on mental health service users of the COVID-19 pandemic: a mixed methods survey of UK mental health care staffby Sonia Johnson et al and the COVID-19 Mental Health Policy Research Unit Group. The authors undertook a survey amongst staff working in the mental health system, to understand their experiences and perspectives of working during the in the COVID pandemic and problems faced by service users. They received over 2000 responses, the majority of whom worked in the NHS (89%), on specific worries such as lack of personal protective equipment, the tensions between achieving adequate infection control versus providing safe care, ability to maintain therapeutic relationships with patients in difficult psychological circumstances and barriers to remote working and tele-health. The committee agree that the approach adopted in this study to survey front line health workers was commendable and highlights the ability to answer important questions during the pandemic using different study designs.

Highly commended HDR UK publications

The Early Career Committee would also like to highlight the runner-up publication by Alex Kwong et al: Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in two longitudinal UK population cohorts“. This study looked at data from two longitudinal population surveys which measure mental health before and during the pandemic. The authors considered the results from over 10 thousand individuals and found that the proportion of individuals reporting probable anxiety was almost double during the pandemic than before it. This was more evident in younger people, women, those living alone and in poorer socioeconomic classes and pre-existing mental and physical health problems. The committee felt that the study findings addressed an important issue and harnessed the power of existing longitudinal research studies to understand the impact of COVID-19 on adult mental health.