Let’s Get Talking About Mental Health

The world has changed beyond recognition in a matter of weeks and we have all had to change with it. I have never experienced a time when so many people are feeling the effects of stress, fear, anxiety, uncertainty and forced isolation. I also feel an element of shock at the speed at which this has happened!

As a Mental Health First Aid instructor, I have had the opportunity to talk about mental health on a regular basis, but I realise that most people don’t get to do this. I have witnessed first hand the benefits for myself and others of being able to talk openly about our mental health.

This is the first in a series of articles in which I plan to explore the thoughts, feelings and emotions we might experience because of these recent changes, and the effect they might have on our mental health. Future topics will include anxiety, stress, wellbeing, depression, kindness, loneliness, anger and self-esteem. The list continues to grow, so if there’s anything you would like me to include please just leave a comment.

So, what just happened?

Change is difficult, especially if it’s forced upon us. It’s nice if we can at least plan ahead, but things are moving so quickly at the moment that it’s hard to know what tomorrow will look like!

The way events affect me is likely to be different from the way they affect you, and vice versa. Now is a time for compassion and understanding, for patience and thoughtfulness when listening to someone else’s story. It is not always easy to do this in a caring and non-judgemental way, as we all have a unique frame of reference through which we see the world around us, and I plan to talk about this in more detail in later articles.

I found myself thinking this morning about the last time I shook someone’s hand and realised that I have no idea when the next time will be! Such a simple and completely normal act which has now become lost in the new environment we are all trying to get used to. It is important to remember that this is temporary. It will end and we will get through it. The world will feel different afterwards, but many of the things we have stopped doing for now will become normal again.

Human nature

We are, by nature, a sociable bunch. We like to communicate at a distance of less than two metres and yet many of us are now completely isolated, with no daily human contact. So we need to discover and embrace new ways of keeping in contact and building relationships. Much of this will happen online so, if you are confident with technology, please reach out to help those who are less confident.

If you are able to get outside for some fresh air and exercise, please remember to smile at the people you pass, because it can really help to lift someone’s spirits and may have the same effect on your own. Remember, mental illness is not contagious and you can’t catch it by being kind. If you know someone who’s struggling, ask them how they are, really. Then listen, really listen, without judgement.

Take care and be safe.