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Waterloo Foundation Annual Conference an online success

19 May 2021

Young boy with his hood up using a laptop at home

The Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI) once again hosted the Waterloo Foundation’s Annual Meeting with over 70 in attendance, this time over Zoom.

The day gave attendees a valuable insight into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of young people and parents and the potentially lasting effects.

The 2021 conference brought together researchers and professionals from NMHRI, the Samaritans and Cambridge University to discuss the implications of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

The Waterloo Foundation (TWF) is a Cardiff-based funding organisation that focuses on four key areas: the environment, Wales, world development and child development. It has helped fund much of the research discussed at the annual meeting and will be hugely instrumental for future research at NMHRI.

NMHRI Director Professor Jeremy Hall chaired the meeting and provided an introduction to the day before NMHRI Co-Director Adrian Harwood took the reigns for the final third of the day.

A number of researchers and the Executive Director of Samaritans Cymru presented their findings from over the last year.

The topics covered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young children’s mental health, immune influences on anxiety and mental health in parents, with Q&As enabling its virtual audience to ask questions.

Key research findings unearthed that income and class had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of children, “Different children from different backgrounds have had different experiences in lockdown”, said Professor Stephanie van Goozen, from Cardiff University, on her talk about the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable young children’s mental health.

For some parents external financial support is of great importance, and while school support has been appreciated, it could’ve been better. There are lots of problems that parents have which has made lockdown so complex.
Professor Stephanie van Goozen Professor

Professor Tamsin Ford, a psychiatrist at Cambridge University, echoed the stresses on parents in her research results, “Every type of mental health you can have, the risk is prevalent in less better-off backgrounds.

“The importance of school and going to it is crucial to serve children and young people’s wellbeing. Socialising and, in some cases, getting away from a troubled life at home can be hugely beneficial to mental health.

“Parents also beat themselves up with how much screen time their children are now having.”

An insightful day was punctuated by Sarah Stone, Executive Director of Samaritans Cymru, who discussed her experience of the pandemic in practice, “We receive a telephone call every seven seconds, however, there is no evidence of an increasing suicide rate as a result of the pandemic.”

She emphasised the Samaritans’ ongoing cause, “Being right beside people during their biggest struggles is the core of the Samaritans. We want to provide an empathetic, non-judgemental presence for people in all situations.”

There were also talks from Wellcome Trust PhD Researcher Dr. Laura Westacott on immune influences on anxiety and Cardiff University’s Professor Frances Rice, who commented on depression in parents and how there’s a greater risk of depression if it runs in the family.

Watch the public lecture

Professor Tamsin Ford delivered the TWF public lecture

The day was a great success and provided a great deal of thought-provoking findings on the lasting effects of the pandemic on everyone’s mental health.

Everyone involved would like to thank The Waterloo Foundation for their continuing support.

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