The Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health Inequalities in North London

Thu, 17 Feb 2022 19:00 in Discussion Forums

Venue: Online
Date: Thursday, 17 February 2022
Time: 19:00-20:00


  • Kerim Balci, Chief Advisor, Human Rights Solidarity; Founder, OnlineHizmet
  • Martine Drake, Wellbeing, Learning and Activities Manager, MIND in Enfield and Barnet
  • Dr Celestin Okoroji, Postdoctoral Fellow, LSE; and Research Lead, Black Thrive Global CIC
  • Cheriesse Bema-Kwakye, Research Fellow and Project Co-ordinator, Dialogue Society


The pandemic has induced a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern across the population at large, and among certain groups in particular, such as the youth, the elderly, key workers, and people with underlying health conditions. British Medical Journal reported that 'increased psychological morbidity was evident in the UK sample and found to be more common in younger people, women and in individuals who had been identified as part of the 'COVID-19 risk groups'. Mental Health Foundation reported that across the UK population 8% of adults surveyed in April 2020 said they had thoughts and feelings about suicide in the previous two weeks. However, this has risen to 13% in February 2021.

Currently, however, the UK is faced with a mixed picture. According to Mental Health Foundation's latest research, the UK population is much more hopeful now than they had been since the first lockdown with 30% feeling more hopeful in February 2021 compared to only 14% in March 2020. However, feelings of loneliness have not returned to their pre-lockdown levels at any point over the past year and have risen from 10% in March 2020 to 26% in February 2021.

Feelings of hopelessness and loneliness have been especially high among young people who have also experienced higher levels of stress and anxiety due to pressures of online school and concern for the future. The January 2021 YoungMinds survey found that 75% of participants found the last lockdown more difficult to cope with and 67% believed that the pandemic will have a long-term impact on their mental health.

Local councils and mental health charities have worked hard to tackle the increased demand for their services. More 24-hour available helplines were set up and e-consults were made available. As we are emerging from the brunt of the pandemic, it is important that we assess its long-term impact on people's mental health and discuss measures to support those in need of assistance. In our forward-thinking panel, our discussion will look at the pandemic's impact on mental health and how local communities, like those in North London, responded to the rising need of support, as well as a dialogue on how best to reconstruct our society to prevent a socially debilitating mental health epidemic.


Kerim Balci is a Turkish writer, journalist, academic and human rights activist. He is recently the Chief Advisor of London Based Human Rights Solidarity Balci served as the editor in chief of Turkish Review, and as a columnist at Today's Zaman and Zaman dailies.

Balci studied his BA in Physics and Political Science at Bogazici University of Turkey, his MA in Islam and Modern Middle East at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and his Ph.D. in linguistics at Durham University of the UK. He is currently an LLM student at Leeds Law School of the UK. He lectures at the US-based Respect Graduate School on topics like Islamic logic, epistemology, and hermeneutics. In the UK he is active within the Muslim community, both acting as a mentor and community organiser - during the COVID-19 pandemic he initiated and still continues with online initiatives such as “OnlineHizmet” to inform and inspire the Muslim community.

Martine Drake currently works at Mind in Enfield and Barnet as a Wellbeing Learning and Activities Manager. Previously, she worked as a Senior Lecturer in Health Policy. Martine has also contributed to her local community of Edmonton as the Volunteer Director of various local ecological projects and as Chair of the Ponders End Community Development Trust.

Celestin Okoroji is the Research Lead at Black Thrive. He is a social and cultural psychologist who completed his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in 2020. His research focuses on how stigmatisation impedes relations between individuals and groups, particularly in unemployment. At Black Thrive Celestin is building Black-led research capacity to fill some of the glaring holes in the empirical evidence related to interventions and outcomes for Black people.

Celestin is interested in data-driven and research-led approaches to improving outcomes for marginalised groups. Alongside his work at Black Thrive, Celestin is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the London School of Economics and teaches on the MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology.

Celestin's most recent publication explores how stigmatising discourses used by political elites and media relate, longitudinally, to public attitudes towards the unemployed. The paper is openly accessible here.

Celestin's research was awarded the Popular Prize and the 2016 LSE Research Festival. In 2017, he was awarded the highly competitive two-year Cumberland Lodge Scholarship.