• James Bartlett

Mental Health Awareness Day 2020

Saturday 10th October 2020

“We should remember that everyone’s experience is their own”

Oh, 2020. Where to begin. You can’t look at your phone, turn on your TV or walk past a newspaper without some mention of COVID 19 and the devastating fall out from it. It’s talked about in pubs (at a distance of course), it’s being discussed during family dinners and has infiltrated all aspects of our lives.

Wherever you work, whether you have children or not, whatever your financial situation, you will have been affected by the current situation. I remember back to January this year and seeing the headlines coming in from China about a mystery illness. As it crept across Europe and eventually found its way to the UK, it almost felt apocalyptic. When we were told to close down and stay in our homes, we mourned the losses, cheered for the front-line workers and prayed for a little good news. In July, things finally began to inch as close to normal as they could be. We breathed a sigh of relief as we were allowed to go to the pub, go back to the shops, exercise without fear of being moved on and catch up with friends and family we had only seen on Zoom.

Now winter is on its way, and fears of more restrictions or lockdowns are on the rise, I think it’s probably the most crucial time to focus on our mental health. I’ve written two drafts to this blog already. The first sounded too dramatic, the second to instructional. I don’t want to write a long list of things that we can do to help our mental health. There are some fantastic resources for that online or over the phone (I’ve listed the sources at the end of this piece.) I also don’t want to write about how terrible everything is and list statistics that prove it.

I do, however, want to talk about just how it is ok to not be ok with what is going on. We know that the world is a little screwed up. It’s not just COVID that shows us that. The political car crash that we witness every day, whichever country we’re in. The sobering facts of environmental damage becoming clear. The racial injustices and inequality that millions of people have to face as part of their ‘normal.’ The list goes on. But there is some light at the end of this.

Mental Health has rightfully been a topic of conversation for a while now. More than ever before I’ve heard people talking openly about their state of mind, the struggles they’re going through and the techniques and medication that they’re taking to help them. But I think this year has been ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’ Finally, the potential mental impact that millions if not billions of people are feeling after what’s going on is being talked about and raised as a huge concern. In my own experience as an acupuncturist, more people are coming to me with the health of their mind being their primary concern. The fact that we are talking about this is a brilliant step.

However, we should remember that everyone’s experience is their own. Just because someone may appear to be coping well with what’s going on, doesn’t mean that everyone will feel the same way. There’s no right or wrong to this. All of us have our own coping mechanism or ‘survival instincts.’ Some may be putting on a brave face and ‘keeping calm and carrying on,’ but the reality when the door is closed at the end of the night is very different. While help and support are available, some may feel like they don’t want to be a burden or feel like ‘they’ll see how they feel tomorrow.’ Some have found ways to keep their mental health in good shape using tools they have available, but for some, it’s too daunting even to know where to begin. Being in isolation is sometimes the only way we can feel like we’re getting any respite from the world.

This is where we all can come in. We all need to step up and check in on our state of mind, and that of our friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and the people on the street. The only way we’re going to support others is to let them know that there is help, and someone to listen to them. Three people I knew have committed suicide in the last month. I sit and wonder what went through their minds in their final hours? Why didn’t they reach out or speak to someone? Those questions will remain unknown. But I will be letting people know that I am there if they need me. Simple acts of kindness are the only way we can support each other. Giving people space while also reminding them that we’re here is something we can all do.

I don’t have the answer or the solution of what to do. I don’t think anyone does. But I ask you, what one thing can you do today your own mental health, or for that of another?

If you’re in a position to help someone else, do it. Check in on a friend, neighbour, co-worker, or family member. We get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget that others are going through challenges of their own. We all need a little help, and talking about it can be the first tiny step towards recovery.

And now more than ever, we need each other. Communication is the only way.

If you need some help or think that someone does, here are a few links to hopefully help:

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