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Experiences of living with mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK: a coproduced, participatory qualitative interview study

Gillard, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9686-2232, Dare, C., Hardy, J. , Nyikavaranda, P., Rowan Olive, R., Shah, P., Birken, M., Foye, U., Ocloo, J., Pearce, E., Stefanidou, T., Pitman, A., Simpson, A. ORCID: 0000-0003-3286-9846, Johnson, S., Lloyd-Evans, B. & NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit Covid coproduction resea (2021). Experiences of living with mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK: a coproduced, participatory qualitative interview study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 56(8), pp. 1447-1457. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02051-7


Research is beginning to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on people with pre-existing mental health conditions. Our paper addresses a lack of in-depth qualitative research exploring their experiences and perceptions of how life has changed at this time.

We used qualitative interviews (N = 49) to explore experiences of the pandemic for people with pre-existing mental health conditions. In a participatory, coproduced approach, researchers with lived experiences of mental health conditions conducted interviews and analysed data as part of a multi-disciplinary research team.

Existing mental health difficulties were exacerbated for many people. People experienced specific psychological impacts of the pandemic, struggles with social connectedness, and inadequate access to mental health services, while some found new ways to cope and connect to the community. New remote ways to access mental health care, including digital solutions, provided continuity of care for some but presented substantial barriers for others. People from black and ethnic minority (BAME) communities experienced heightened anxiety, stigma and racism associated with the pandemic, further impacting their mental health.

There is a need for evidence-based solutions to achieve accessible and effective mental health care in response to the pandemic, especially remote approaches to care. Further research should explore the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on people with pre-existing mental health conditions. Particular attention should be paid to understanding inequalities of impact on mental health, especially for people from BAME communities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Covid-19, Pandemic, Mental health, Qualitative
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR180 Immunology
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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