‘Facing Uncertainty Together’: A More Radical Approach to 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. The Coop is running a mental wealth programme through July and August, and in this post, Carolyn reflects on last week’s discussions with local residents in the Mental Wealth Trialogue.

This week, the Good Mental Health Coop hosted it’s first virtual open dialogue event, called a Mental Wealth Trialogue. A couple of the participants spoke about how the impact of Covid 19 on our mental health generally was now being talked about everywhere. As if it had just been discovered that people are often emotionally and psychologically distressed by trauma, unexpected crises, being cut off from family and friends, losing jobs and experiencing financial hardship. Who would have thought it?

Of course all these life experiences have been impacting on people’s mental health long before coronavirus. The difference being that people’s experiences were often in isolation, often not believed or minimised, and their emotional distress buried or medicalised. Now this is a collective, global experience, and impact on the mental health of the population is predicted to have long lasting consequences. Since the costs of psychiatric medical or therapeutic interventions, based on what’s currently provided by our mental health services, would be astronomical, perhaps its time to think more radically about alternative models of preventive, restorative, community based approaches.

In our discussion, we talked of other discoveries about our collective mental health during the lock down period. Effectively the world slowed down, our environment improved with better air quality, less noise and more opportunities to walk, cycle and connect with nature; people seemed friendlier and willing to help out others; we all saw what were the most important jobs to keep society going in a crisis; we all realised the very real significance of our connections with family, friends and our wider social networks.

Above all, the past few months have taught us all a lot about compassion: that we just don’t know what struggles others are facing, that we can be kinder and more accepting of how others are feeling, and that we all need to know how to take care of ourselves psychologically to cope with the impact of this pandemic.

‘Lest we forget’ is a phrase commonly used in war remembrance services and commemorative occasions in English speaking countries. As restrictions ease, let’s value what we’ve learned over the past few months and face uncertainty together. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, so let’s keep our focus on our common humanity and on remembering how to take care of each other.

We recognise that this has been an incredibly challenging time, coping with sudden and dramatic changes in our lives, intense feelings, anxiety about the future, loss of contact with loved ones, experience of illness and bereavement.

At the Good Mental Health Cooperative, we believe that connecting with others, and informal arts and wellbeing learning activities, are really important ways to take care of our mental health, and build the emotional resilience we need to get though these difficult times.

The programme takes place mainly through July and August, and includes the following:

  • Weekly livestreamed ChitChat Cafe meetings on Facebook
  • Twice weekly 30 minute live mindfulness sessions
  • Journal writing course – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live arts and wellbeing workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Live Embodiment Through Movement workshops – 5 weekly sessions
  • Discover Yourself – self development course – 7 weekly sessions
  • Working Through Worry – 7 weekly sessions
  • Two Mental Wealth Trialogue live discussion events

Full details about the programme and registering your interest are available here.

Additional resources

Each week we share a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid19 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.

You can also find information about local support and services available if you’re feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed. 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 Kim Lowe from Pixabay.

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