The Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, has donated £1 million to fund Oxford Department of Psychiatry research on the mental health effects of COVID-19 and lockdown. This is part of the Westminster Foundation’s £10 million fund set up for coronavirus, and it comes in addition to an initial £2.5 million donation providing food for children who qualify for free school meals but were unable to access them due to lockdown. The remainder of the funding is being provided to NHS Charities Together and other research groups. 

The Department of Psychiatry has welcomed the donation. Professor John Geddes, who heads the department, said: “We are enormously grateful for this generous gift which will enable us to scale up our research projects, especially into how COVID-19 is affecting young people’s mental health.  I’m delighted how quickly and expertly our researchers have responded to this global threat. The pace of development means that funding them has been a challenge, and this donation is critically important.”

Research specifically centres on young people’s mental health and stress points that can cause deterioration. An Oxford team is involved in tracking thousands of families through the course of the pandemic to identify what can trigger a mental health crisis. 

Other research focuses include helping practitioners cope with making difficult decisions, understanding how best to communicate illness and death to children, and the uses of digital media to improve health through the pandemic. 

Previous studies have investigated the effects of the pandemic on single parents, as well as the impacts of school closures on education gaps.