UHI develops new app to support mental health of NHS workers

Researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands are leading a new project which will use digital technologies to help NHS Highland staff cope with the impacts of COVID-19.

Health and social care staff will work with researchers at the institution to create personalised mental health toolkits, which will include activities like exercise and mindfulness techniques, and will monitor their mood and anxiety levels using an app. They will then receive tailored, personal feedback and information about support if they are struggling.

It’s hoped that the app will help prevent and treat psychological distress and will enhance the resilience of frontline workers during the pandemic.

Dr Johannes De Kock, a digital health research fellow and clinical psychologist from the University’s division of Rural Health and Wellbeing, will lead the initiative. Dr De Kock said:

“Previous pandemics like SARS have shown us that the psychological toll on health and care workers can be immense.

“Research conducted in other countries during the COVID-19 outbreak suggests that roughly half of the frontline workforce will experience a diagnosable anxiety or mood disorder. As the pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, we know that Scotland’s health and care workforce may face similar distress.”

The project is funded by the Scottish Government as part of 50 rapid studies, led by 15 of Scotland’s universities, to research ways to tackle the virus, manage the response and limit the impact it will have the impact on people’s lives.

The team at UHI is also looking to secure additional funding to work with other groups in rural areas who may be particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, such as young people and those living with long-term conditions.