One of hardest and saddest effects of the current crisis is the loneliness it has caused so many people to experience. Even for those with a strong support network around them a sense of loss and omission has crept into all of our day to day lives and for many that has also had a detrimental effect on their mental wellbeing.
Tomorrow is Time to Talk Change’s – Time to Talk Day, part of a national campaign to eradicate the stigma around mental health issues. According to Mind one in four people will experience mental health issues in England this year with one in six saying they have experienced common problems such as anxiety or depression in any given week. That number is likely to continue to rise due to the additional pressures of adapting to life under the shadow of the ongoing global pandemic. Bereavement, isolation, fear, financial worries, family pressures, work and educational demands, domestic abuse are all triggers which may lead to or exacerbate metal health issues. But for many people to admit that they are struggling is inconceivable causing further damage to their mental wellbeing. Most people’s knee jerk reaction to being asked if they are ok is to plaster on a smile and say I’m fine and that may even appear to be the case but what if they are just doing a really great swan impression and that calm exterior masks frantic movement beneath the waves. That’s why Time to Talk ask us to ask again because maybe the barriers to talking, really talking about our feelings such as fear, shame and embarrassment will begin to come own on the second time of asking.
I have written before about the positive effects on mental wellbeing of spending time within the natural world. However it’s particularly difficult at this time of the year when evenings are still short and the weather is uninviting to find the motivation to get out into fresh air as so many of us did during the first lockdown. According to a recent report two-fifths of people say that they are spending more time online and watching TV and less time exercising this lockdown than they did under previous government stay at home directives. I have to confess if it wasn’t for the dog I may well have been joining them, the energetic young Border collie we share our home with has other ideas though and an incredible internal alarm clock that simply cannot be ignored. It’s hard to even recall those fine spring days as anything more than a hazy memory as I wrap up against the elements but there are benefits beyond the physical to getting outside for me, it’s the opportunity to feel socially connected, to see unfamiliar faces doing familiar things and be reminded that we are not Islands in this crisis. I am also reminded of how fortunate I am to live and work in such a beautiful location and to be able to get out every day and enjoy the variety of natural landscapes which are safely accessible to me. That this is not the case for so many people due to a myriad of factors such as location or health is also something that I am acutely aware of.
This Time to Talk Day I am going to do as the campaign asks and not let the fact that I can’t be face to face with friends, family and colleagues stop us from connecting in other ways. As this year’s campaign reminds us one small conversation can make a big difference in someone else’s life.
To find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved in this year’s virtual festival visit: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
Gemma Alexander – Community Engagement Officer