Covid-19 has dominated the news for over a year now, and rightly so. This deadly virus has wreaked havoc, misery and devastation in so many people’s lives, affecting people in untold ways, both mentally and physically, but it is essential that we address the mental health crisis this country finds itself in.
We stood on our doorsteps, balconies and at our windows clapping for the amazing key workers of the NHS who were on the frontlines fighting to keep us safe during the hight of the pandemic, something which they have always done and will always continue to do. Supermarket assistants, refuse collectors, postal workers, delivery drivers and those who work in takeaways finally got the recognition they deserved for keeping the country going when everyone was told to stay at home, those workers went to work every day so that we could continue to have access to essential items. It is only right that those workers are recognised for their bravery and commitment to serving communities throughout the country.
We should celebrate the best in people and what they have achieved but we cannot turn a blind eye to the struggles so many people are currently facing. Mental health is being talked about more, we’re slowly breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, we’re beginning to acknowledge that our mental health and wellbeing is just as important as our physical health, it needs to be cared for and loved. Unfortunately, we’re not making quick enough progress as mental health services are at breaking point and waiting times are only getting longer and longer. The longer people are unable to seek the help they need, the harder it is for people to deal with their struggles and people begin to suffer more.
I think it is fair to say that we have all been affected by mental health in some way, whether it be personally or someone you know, mental health struggles have entered our lives one way or another and everybody deals with it differently in their own way. I’m not a doctor and I don’t claim to have the answers on how we can resolve this, but for me, writing has been a tremendous help. In the past, I have struggled to talk to people close to me about things that are affecting me, maybe through embarrassment or maybe because they are familiar to me. Talking to a stranger has always made me feel more comfortable, there are no expectations or preconceived ideas from strangers (I’d like to think this was always the case), for the most-part, they take what you say at face value, whereas with those you know, I always feel like there might be some kind of judgement or disappointment. With writing it is completely different, it’s just you, your thoughts and the blank paper in front of you. You’re able to write whatever you want, without fear or judgement, it offers the perfect form of escapism for me.
Throughout my life I’ve been quite fortunate that I have only really struggled once with my mental health and that was four years ago now. I went to my local GP to ask for help and was told that I could either take anti-depressants or be added to a waiting list to see speak to a mental health professional. He explained to me that I probably wouldn’t be able to see a professional within the year (it was May when I visited) due to queues of people ahead of me who also needed help. I remember leaving the doctor’s that day with a prescription and a leaflet with a list of different numbers on that I could ring if things got worse. Instead of going to the chemist to get my prescription or going home to ring any of the numbers I had been given, I got home and began to eat.
I have always had an unhealthy relationship with food, I use it as a comfort for any slight inconvenience or trauma I may experience. I can go from one extreme to another with food, I can eat in moderation and enjoy it, or I can eat for the sake of eating until I feel sick. I turn to food no matter the situation and then I begin to feel angry and regret at what I’ve done. It’s a vicious cycle where I eat to make myself feel better and when I become angry or annoyed at something, I eat again. At one point I used to smoke, so I’d like a cigarette whenever I felt stressed, upset or any feeling really, but now that I don’t smoke anymore, I’ve replaced it with food. This is something that I will have to deal with and take control of, as it is not healthy and won’t help me in the long-term.
If we are to truly be there for people and help them during their mental health struggles proper provisions must be put in place. More resources must be made available to the NHS to help people, earlier intervention is key to helping people too, we’re lacking vital community led initiatives that are designed to help people. We must be able to help people reconnect with society, to interact with others or to find escapism from everyday life in simple things. I also strongly believe that to improve people’s wellbeing we need investment into the North East, a thriving economy with job and financial stability can help people to overcome their struggles.
I’ve reread this three or four times now just to make sure I haven’t steered off track too much (I probably have) but I’m okay with that because as I wrote earlier, writing really does help me say what I need to say without having to speak and helped me to clear my head.
It might not work for everyone but give it a try to see if it helps you. Who knows, you might enjoy writing and take it up as a hobby.
If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, here is a list of numbers to call –
Call 116123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply within 24 hours.
Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19.
For those under 19 years of age you can also call 08001111 to speak to someone from Childline. This number will not appear on any phone bill.