Mind the Gap! – Social Distancing and Mental Health

This article was submitted for the June 2020 issue of our parish magazine, and contains many helpful links for Mental Health.

We are currently living in a drastically restructured reality. Life and living are somewhat different to that of last spring. Many people continue to work from home. Many shops, all pubs, restaurants and churches remain closed (other than for ‘take-away services’). Cinemas and theatres sit dark and silent. Those classed as ‘vulnerable’ remain isolated in their homes. We are all coming to terms with different boundaries and different ways of living. Some, on the surface at least, appear to be taking the changes in their stride; others are feeling lonely in their isolation. Perhaps there has never been a more appropriate time to sit back and take stock of our lives and situations and to be kind to ourselves and others.     

National Mental Health Awareness Week commenced on Monday 18th May. This year, with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (Covid19), the subsequent illness and loss of life, lockdown, and social distancing, awareness of mental health issues is more relevant than ever. Protecting our mental health is central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic – with the psychological and social impacts likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.  This year the Mental Health Foundation that hosts the national awareness week has chosen the theme of ‘Kindness’, focussing on its power and potential.

“Kindness was chosen because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. It strengthens relationships, develops community, and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practice to be fully alive.

Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others motivated by a genuine desire to make a difference. Research indicates that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. It shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism” (Mental Health Foundation).

Remember no act of kindness is ever wasted.

We may all experience loneliness and isolation at times but particularly in this current situation. Talking about your feelings and asking for help is part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. Family and friends can be a vital source of support when things are difficult even if it means contacting them at the moment by telephone or social media platforms.

Other people may feel low or depressed due to the effects of the coronavirus or for other reasons. Bereavement, loss of employment, financial hardship or sudden change of circumstances can all lead to low mood and feelings of being overwhelmed, leading to depression.

If you are experiencing any of these or other mental health concerns you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery. You may want to talk to your partner, a relative or a friend about your problems. They may be concerned about you and welcome the opportunity to hear what you have to say. If this is not possible you may prefer to talk to someone else you can trust like a faith leader , tutor or teacher.

If you need urgent help, if your mental or emotional state quickly worsens or you’re worried about someone you know, you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority or contact NHS 111. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP you should visit the A&E Dept at your local general hospital.

Whatever your situation, if you are struggling, please seek help. There is no wrong way to tell someone how you are feeling. Discussing and sharing your concerns can enable you to see things from a fresh perspective as well as getting you the support and help you need and deserve.

Organisations that offer help are:

The Samaritans: they offer emotional support24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide – in full confidence.  Call 116 123 – its free or email jo@samaritans.org.uk

Shout Crisis Text Line: for support in a crisis text Shout to 85258. If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support. Shout can help with urgent issues such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying, and relationship challenges.

Calm (Campaign Against Living Miserably): is dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Telephone: 0800 585858 (17:00 – 00:00).   www.thecalmzone.net

PAPYRUS (Parents Association for the Prevention of Young Suicide): advice and information for parents, carers, teachers, professionals and friends of young people at risk of suicide. Telephone: 0800 068 41 41  Text: 07786 209697 email: pat@papyrus.uk.org   Weekdays 10.00 – 22.00  Weekends 14.00 – 17.00 

ChildLine: a counselling service for parents, children and young people. Help and advice is free and confidential. Telephone: 0800 1111  http://www.childLine.org.uk  

Rethink Mental Illness: you can call the Rethink advice and information line Monday to Friday, 10am -2pm for practical advice on:

Different types of therapy and medication, benefits, debt, money issues, police, courts and prison, your rights under the Mental Health Act. Call Rethink on 0300 5000 927 (calls charged at local rate).

Mind is a national mental health charity. Visit http://www.mind.org.uk for information on all aspects of mental health and choose from over 40 booklets in their online shop. Call 0300 123 3393 for their Infoline or text 86463. They can help you find services in your area. For booklets call 0844 448 4448 or email:publications@mind.org.uk

Cruse – Bereavement Care: Cruse offer support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies, and work to enhance society’s care of bereaved people via face to face, telephone, email and website support. Telephone: 0808 808 1677 (weekdays 9.00 – 17.00). Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk    www.cruse.org.uk

National Domestic Abuse Helpline: for those facing any form of domestic abuse: psychological abuse, economic abuse, coercive control, emotional abuse, physical abuse, honour-based abuse or sexual abuse. Telephone: 0808 2000 247  (free 24 hour confidential helpline).  In an emergency dial 999

Above all, please remember that you don’t have to cope with this crisis alone; we are all in this together!

Stay well and keep safe,

Andrew Ginn


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