Listening to the Wider Conversation on Mental Health

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, shares advice and resources on how to manage your mental health in lockdown. This week, Carolyn shares the thoughts of others in the community about their mental health in their own words.

As restrictions begin to ease, we’re all dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 3 months and speculating about what the future will look like. International research tells us that we’re likely to see an escalation of emotional and mental distress.

Already the Office of National Statistics tells us that just over half of adults (53.1%) said that coronavirus was affecting their wellbeing, and just under half (46.9%) reported high levels of anxiety. We know that many people have experienced problems intensified by the pandemic – social isolation, domestic abuse, relationship problems, financial problems, unemployment, balancing working from home with child care and unaddressed health issues among others.

With our survey during May, we started a Wider Conversation around mental health and wellbeing, and these are some of the responses to our survey which share a range of experiences of emotional distress, in people’s own words:

I’ve felt intense confusion on trying to social distance is public and judging if people are angry at me.

My 8 year old has really struggled. Nightmares are frequent. We were all unwell with a virus and he was terrified that we were all going to die. Some days are full of his angry tantrums or sobbing. It’s been incredibly difficult to support him to process everything. Heartbreaking.

I’m ok indoors but the thought of going outside makes me extremely anxious and angry and stressed. I also cry for no reason.

Yes I have become aware in others emotional and psychological distress. My neighbour can’t see her grand and great grand kids. My friend is isolated from her daughter. When people don’t stay away from others, I can see the anxiety. My friend is disabled and trying to decorate and sort out her house. She can’t have anyone to help her. So she gets overwhelmed and despondent. Her daughter is having a lot of mental and physical problems and due to travel restrictions she can’t see her. People have told me they are frightened. I think the ones who watch the news constantly are getting very stressed.

Anxiety, increased fear of death of self and family. Fear over elderly father who lives nearly 200 miles away. Crying a lot more, hard to stop self crying. Irritability and boredom, lack of motivation.

My friend who is a NHS worker was very distressed at the beginning worry about family contracting the virus. My Dad who lives alone in small bedsit has been struggling, suddenly unable to do the things he used to, large parts of the days with no company.

I have felt sad and scared that the ‘normal’ way of life may never be the same again – this is what we are told on the news most days. I liked my old life.

All this calls for a community response around mental health and wellbeing, on a similar scale to the army of volunteers, businesses and organisations mobilised to provide practical support to those shielding or in self isolation, and the most vulnerable in our communities. There are local and national sources of support (see our Resources link below). Above all though we need to build a greater acceptance and understanding in the wider community around how to help and support others in emotional distress.

Huge thanks to all those who participated in our anonymous survey. Your words are powerful and will help others to understand they are not alone. Your ideas and reflections will help to shape how community support can be developed over the coming weeks and months.

Thanks to the National Emergencies Trust, the Good Mental Health Coop now has some funding to set up live workshops and events online during July and August.

We’ll be hosting live ChitChat Cafe sessions very soon to share ideas and introduce our planned workshops on journal writing, art, drumming, mindfulness, and wellbeing.

If you’d like to join in the ChitChat Cafe, click here and we’ll keep you updated.

Each week we’ll be sharing a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid-19 crisis.

This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine. 

We’ve been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website – these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out. 

Click here for Resources for Resilience

This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

 Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

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