When I first started training, back at the start of the millennium, mental health was something people didn’t talk about and when they did it was in whispers. The received wisdom was that only 1/10 of us would experience mental ill-health in our lifetime – employees would rather say they had a bad back than take time off work due to stress.
Since then things have changed a lot! Now estimates are closer to 1/5: not because things are worse but because we have recognised how important mental health is, how good it is to talk and that ‘it’s okay to say’. Even better than this, we realise that we can foster mental wellbeing – mental health is something we can improve through positive actions, with an approach similar to physical health.
So, in this Lockdown Mental Health Awareness Week, I’d like to reflect not only on how far we have come but also on how well we are doing. Now more than ever we are seeing amazing examples of just how strong, how resilient, and how much mental fortitude people are showing in the face of the unprecedented assault of Covid19:
- The selfless behaviour of NHS staff and carers going into work each shift
- Parents juggling work and home schooling
- People reaching out to their community and looking out for neighbours
- Those shielding dealing with 12+ weeks of isolation (that’s quarter of a year and counting ..!)
Just like hard physical exercise, this ongoing mental challenge is tough, but as individuals and communities, we are rising to the challenges we face.
Although we are getting used to new ways of living, the immediate future is likely to be equally hard and may test us even more. Things that were ‘normal’, like shopping, are now an exercise in measured risk, and more and more people are facing the uncertainty of insecure employment.
I’m not going to say that everything is ok, but based on how far we have come with looking after our mental health, I am optimistic that together we can endure and come through better than we were.
So, keep talking, be kind to yourself and others, and take heart from the fact that we seem to be stronger than we thought we could be.