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Hugh Grosvenor, The Duke of Westminster, has donated £1m towards Oxford University’s COVID-19 mental health research programmes. This is part of the £10m donation announced by the Westminster Foundation last month to support the national COVID-19 relief effort.

The grant will be made available through the Westminster Foundation to support the University’s Department of Psychiatry, which is at the forefront of mental health research in the UK. They are addressing a broad range of mental health issues arising from the pandemic and its impacts on the human psyche, including isolation, confinement, uncertainty, anxiety, stress and the disconnection from our social, family and work lives.

The effect of the pandemic on the mental well-being of children is of particular concern and interest to the Duke, and Westminster Foundation, which provides long-term support to vulnerable young people and families.

The University’s mental health researchers are developing diagnostic tools and crafting expert guidance for governments, schools, parents, medical professionals, therapists, carers and individuals. For example, Oxford is working with thousands of local families to track children and young people’s mental health throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The results will help researchers identify what protects children and young people from deteriorating mental health over time and at particular stress points, and how this may vary according to child and family characteristics. A team of psychiatrists and researchers are also developing a set of resources to help communicate parental illness and death to children.

Hugh Grosvenor said: 'Mental health can affect anyone, anywhere. This crisis presents new and difficult challenges to so many; 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.'

John Geddes, Professor of Epidemiological Psychiatry, Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, said: 'We are enormously grateful for this generous gift which will enable us to scale up our research projects, especially into how COVID19 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.'

Oxford University’s COVID-19 mental health research programmes include studies in the following areas: The effect of COVID-19 on brain health; communicating parental illness and death to children; tracking young people’s mental health during the pandemic; helping clinicians cope with the moral dilemmas and “moral injury”; and using digital health to improve mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Duke of Westminster has made a total of £12.5m of funding available through the Westminster Foundation for COVID-19 response and recovery. An initial donation of £2.5m was made available in March, which was primarily granted to charities providing essential food distribution especially to vulnerable families struggling to feed their children who would normally receive free school meals. Announced in April, £10m was then made available to NHS Charities Together, medical research and development, and organisations playing a vital role in supporting vulnerable individuals or families who may struggle with the long-term impact of the epidemic.These donations are in addition to the multi-million-pound support that the Grosvenor Estate has given to business and families in both urban and rural communities.