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Duke of Westminster donates £1 million to Covid-19 mental health research

By Tony Jones
Oxford University’s research into the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of the nation has been boosted by a £1 million donation from the Duke of Westminster.

The funds are part of £10 million donated earlier in the pandemic by the duke – billionaire landowner Hugh Grosvenor – with the majority of the money earmarked to support the health service through NHS Charities Together.

The million pound grant will help the work of the University’s Department of Psychiatry which is examining the pandemic’s effect on a range of areas from anxiety and stress, to individuals being disconnected from their social, family and work lives.

The duke, who is Prince George’s godfather, said: “Mental health can affect anyone, anywhere. This crisis presents new and difficult challenges to so many people; whether that’s clinicians and key workers on the front line, grieving families, children struggling to understand social isolation, or anyone already suffering from anxiety or other mental health issues.

“While the impact of this crisis is being felt immediately, the longer-term mental health impact of Covid-19 could potentially be devastating if not addressed.

“I am really interested in Oxford University’s innovative mental health programmes, particularly the impact of the pandemic on youth mental health. These projects are vital pieces of work and will benefit us all as the effects of the virus become more apparent.”

Oxford’s Covid-19 mental health research programmes range from studies examining the effect of coronavirus on brain health, to tracking young people’s mental health during the pandemic and developing a set of resources to help communicate parental illness and death to children.

Professor John Geddes, head of the university’s Department of Psychiatry, 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.”

The duke has donated £12.5 million in total through his charitable body the Westminster Foundation for the Covid-19 response and recovery.

The majority of the £10 million, donated in April, will support NHS Charities Together to provide respite, rehabilitation and mental health assistance to NHS staff and their families.

It followed funds of £2.5 million, announced in March, which went mostly to charities providing essential food distribution to vulnerable families.
(PA)