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Male frontline NHS workers to be offered support from mental health programme designed by York researchers

Posted on 26 August 2021

Male NHS frontline workers - particularly those who have experienced emotional and mental health problems due to Covid - will be offered support in a new project being developed by the University of York.

Around 45 male NHS frontline workers at risk of low mood will be recruited for the pilot study which starts this winter.

The programme, called Behavioural Activation for Low mood and anxiety in Male NHS frontline workers (BALM), is funded by Movember  and being delivered in partnership with York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Trust, and North West Ambulance Service.

Researchers will develop, deliver and evaluate the early intervention programme that aims to improve common mental health challenges such as low mood, burn-out, anxiety and depression faced by male frontline NHS workers.

Disproportionately affected

Lead researcher, Professor Paul Galdas, from the Department of Health Sciences said: “Frontline staff are at increased risk of mental health difficulties which account for almost a quarter of NHS staff sickness absences. Male frontline workers often do not seek help and might be disproportionately affected. 

“Identifying effective early interventions that facilitate uptake and engagement in male frontline NHS workers is critical to mitigating the mental health risks they face during the current pandemic and beyond.”

Around 45 male NHS frontline workers at risk of low mood will be recruited for the pilot which starts in this winter. 

The men will receive the behavioural activation booklet and support from specially trained experts on how to get the most out of the programme. It’s expected to be rolled out across the NHS toward the end of the project in two years’ time. 

Early intervention

Professor Dean McMillan, from Hull-York Medical School, who is co-leading the study said: “Behavioural Activation is an effective treatment that can be used as an early intervention to help stop these difficulties getting worse.

“It is particularly suited for adaptation as a gender-sensitive intervention because of its practical, action-oriented strategies that are consistent with a strengths-based masculinities approach.” 

Vital support

Dr Michael Mawhinney, Head of Nursing (Corporate) at York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Working within the NHS during the COVID-19 response has been a significant challenge for all of us and it is vital now, more than ever, we support all of our staff to the best of our abilities. 

“This exciting project is one way of doing that and we are very excited to start the project later this year.”

 Research from previous infectious disease epidemics shows that frontline health workers are at increased risk of developing both short and long-term mental health problems, with up to one-third experiencing high levels of distress. 

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