World Mental Health Day 2020 – coping with lockdown and loss

It is World Mental Health Day today (10th Oct 2020) and this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’.

Dr Ingrid Daniels, president of the World Federation for Mental Health, has said “The world is experiencing the unprecedented impact of the current global health emergency due to COVID-19. That has also impacted on the mental health of millions of people. We know that the levels of anxiety, fear, isolation, social distancing and restrictions, uncertainty and emotional distress experienced have become widespread as the world struggles to bring the virus under control and to find solutions.

There is an expectation that the need for mental health support will substantially increase over the coming months and years. Investment in mental health programmes, at national and international levels, is widely believed to have suffered from years of chronic underfunding and, with support now deemed to be more important than it has ever been, the goal of this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is increased investment in mental health.

The focus of the key mental health organisations is quite rightly to call for a massive scale-up in investment in mental health. Hopefully that focus will yield positive results though change on such a scale inevitably takes time. There are, however, things each of us can do to try to make things better.

Closer to home, research conducted by Mind, with over 16,000 people, has shown that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. Many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some, existing mental health problems have gotten worse.

I refer to Mind a lot as it is a wonderful charity, doing fantastic work in raising mental health awareness and trying to ensure that everyone experiencing mental health problems gets support and respect. There are some wonderful resources and ideas on their website and I’d encourage everyone to take a look – click this link to get there. One of the main reasons I started this blog is that there are many different degrees of mental health problems. Acute depression, anxiety, a lack of self-confidence, and other issues are awful to deal with on a day-to-day basis though there are many of us with less severe forms of one or all these. No matter what the degree of intensity, suffering from any mental health issue has the potential to greatly affect our lives. Anything which increases awareness and understanding, such as World Mental Health Day, can only be a good thing.

So, what can we all do? It may come as no surprise to hear me say that talking about our issues, experiences, and concerns is a positive move. However, that isn’t easy to do, especially if we’ve bottled up problems for any period of time. If there is anyone you know who you feel you could confide in, please do so. The adage it’s good to talk has never been more apt than when applied to mental health issues. The Mind website linked above offers many great suggestions, including:

  • Share your story, so others can see they’re not alone in the challenges they’re facing.
  • Use the Instagram and Facebook templates just for one day.
  • Download their mental health calendar and try to complete some of the activities. Some of my favourites from that include: talk to someone instead of sending an e-mail; do some ‘easy exercise’; take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you; find out something about your friends, families or colleagues; start a new book; do something nice for a friend, or a stranger; and look out, as well as in.

We’ve heard many times over recent months about the need to check in with our friends and family members, especially those who are older and alone, and that is as vitally important as ever. However, the stat that shocked and horrified me, is the one stating that over two thirds of the young people who contributed to the Mind research said their mental health got worse during lockdown. All too often we overlook the issues young people may face. We assume they’re resilient. We assume they won’t be affected too much by the current state-of-the-world and will get through it without any issue. We’re seemingly wrong in thinking that. Suicide rates among the young are awful and highlight that they may not be as resilient and strong as we may think. So, this weekend, if you have kids, do something different with them. Try to instigate an honest conversation with them to determine how they’re feeling. Try to snuggle up with them and watch a film or TV show (not always easy to do with teenagers but it’s certainly worth trying). Go for a walk with them. Just invest a little more time with them than normal. Hug them. Tell them they’re loved and always will be, despite the nagging and moaning us parents do on a fairly frequent basis. Gently reiterate the importance of having open and honest conversations, especially within the confines of the home. It may well be the most important hour or so you’ll spend on anything this year.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you are all keeping well but if not, please do reach out. Talk to someone, whether it’s someone you know or one of the many wonderful charities we have access to who specialise in this area. Look out for yourself (always vitally important to remember) and look out for others, particularly our children and younger people in general. Mental health issues are far more prevalent than any of us realise and the signs aren’t always that obvious.

Best wishes.

Mick

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