For a long time as a society we have needed to recognise that mental health isn’t just something that happens to someone when they’re ill or struggling. It’s part of us every minute of every day, it fluctuates depending on numerous factors from how well you slept the night before to how much stress you’re under at work.
“If this year has highlighted anything, it’s that even though1 in 4 people will experience a mental health illness the remaining 3 of 4 still have mental health.”
Mental Health In 2020
2020 will be a year that goes down in history, most notably due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has brought the world as we knew it to a screeching stand still. With it, it has surfaced just how fragile we are psychologically and from it some sort of appreciation for the importance of good mental health has risen. Maybe it’s taken for the “you just need to pull yourself together” crowds to experience the mornings where you don’t can’t face getting out of bed. Or for the “it’s all in your head” believers to encounter the overwhelming sensation of anxiety for people to really start to take notice of what lots of people have been shouting about for some time. That everyone has mental health and it’s something we need to take care of just as much as our physical health. Over the Christmas and New Year period we don’t know the true numbers of how many people will experience deterioration to their mental health. However, at the beginning of the year people with no previously reported issues with their mental health experienced a decline in their wellbeing over the first lockdown.
Although it is great that mental health is starting to get a spotlight, there is still so far to go for those who need specialist support from mental health services. The disparity between physical and mental health services has been going on since the formation of the NHS back in 1948. In comparison to other services, mental health is continually underfunded for the needs of the people who desperately need professional support and treatment, back in 2015 the Social Care Act 2012 put responsibility on the NHS to equal the playing field between physical and mental health which was backed by the government at the time who pledged to create parity of esteem by 2020. Coronavirus has likely not only put a spanner in the works to achieve this equality but has also caused an increase of people who might need to seek advice, support or treatment from mental health services.
Often it is not until it is too late that a person meets the threshold for help. This isn’t the decision of people working within the system who want to help as many people as possible but instead it is the doing of a system built on reactive measures rather than preventative. It’s the scale of you’re not unwell enough yet rather than let’s help you now before it gets worse. For a service that was already stretched beyond its limits, the impact of coronavirus has pushed mental health services almost to breaking point. With the threshold for help being raised so high that some people don’t receive help until they’re made an attempt to end their life it’s not surprising that adults and children who have experienced serious deteriorations in their mental health have been unable to get the help. Arguable when they need it most; when they’re unable to use the strategies that normally help them through rocky times; seeing friends and family, going to work, being active in their local community.
The Effect Of Lockdown On Mental Health
During the lockdown in March, 31% of adults surveyed by MIND and 28% of young people did not access support because they didn’t think that their issue was serious enough. That means people both adults and children were suffering, in silence. This cultural view we have built up that mental ill-health is something to be ashamed of has led to people thinking they don’t warranted help and support. I wonder if those people had fallen over and broken their arms if they wouldn’t have gone to A&E because they didn’t feel it was serious enough or if someone would have ignored their obvious pain with the flippant remark “you don’t have it that bad”.
Tackling The Festive Season
The festive period and New Year under tighter restriction for some people may have relieved some of the usual Christmas stress of cooking, hosting and resisting hiding in the cupboard with a bottle of Gin because the Christmas tree has been knocked over for the fifth time of the day. For those people, I hope you were able to enjoy a simpler festive period and will take from this surreal year that you don’t have to put yourself out to please others just because it’s Christmas. For others, the news that the Corona Christmas we had planned over 5 days with some loved ones was not safe from tighter restrictions and rules would have been the last straw on the mental resilience camel’s back. This Christmas and New Year may have been a time of increased loneliness and negative thoughts that might be causing you to find this time difficult to get through. That’s okay. It’s ok to not feel like you’re #blessed.
We’re entering the new normal of how life is going to be once we’re out of the pandemic storm, let’s apply this new normal to the conversation about mental health. Never feel that what you’re experiencing isn’t serious enough to stop you asking for help.
3 Ways to Ask For Help
Because sometimes ‘ Can we talk’ can be the hardest thing to say, here are a 3 alternative ways to reach out to someone:
1) Write a letter
Not only can writing have a therapeutic benefit helping to process and rationalise what’s going on, it can also reduce the anxiety of asking to talk to someone. Having it all there prepared means you don’t have to find the words, you don’t even have to be there while the other person reads it. This can be a great way to begin the conversation with someone that you might need some support. Once this initial conversation is out of the way you might find it easier to talk to other people or a professional.
The quickest and most instant form of communication. Sending a text to someone can quickly open up a really meaningful conversation. What might start off as a quick one liner to a close friend might end up being a hours phone call where you can offload and seek some reassuring support.
3) Talk to someone you don’t know
Sometimes our minds might take us to some really dark places, ones that we might not want to share with people we love because we’re worried it might upset them. This does not mean that you have to hurt in silence, there are lots of anonymous helplines or charities that will give you space and time to talk about these thoughts and feelings in a safe and non-judgemental space.
Samaritans 24/7 phone line (free to call): 116 123
SANELINE (for anyone experiencing or supporting someone with mental illness) : 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm – 10.30pm everyday)
The Mix (for under 25s) call : 0808 808 4994 (Sunday – Friday 2pm – 11pm)
Request email support through this link : https://www.themix.org.uk/get-support/speak-to-our-team/email-us
Text THEMIX to 85258.