Wednesday, 20 May 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 60

Mental Health Awareness week. 18th  - 24th May.

I awoke last Monday completely clueless as to what day of the week it was. For a few moments I was confused and I guess a little alarmed until I realised that it cannot be at all surprising when every day has become indistinguishable from any other. This clever little clock was acquired to help Dad, who suffered with Altzheimers and dementia in the last years before he died in 2015. Problem solved.

Mental health has already and quite rightly had some attention during the Covid. Not enough in my opinion. The emphasis seems to be on the effects of isolation on an otherwise healthy (mentally that is) population. Of course this matters but when it comes to mental health care we are starting from a tragically low point. Mental health care in the UK is simply appalling and to focus on just the isolation effects is to considerably underplay the impact that the Covid will have on the health of our society.

The ever present threat of loss or even death is highly stressful; bank balances are stretched; relationships are under strain with kids and partners under each others feet and all escape routes might be cut off. But above all is the uncertainty. So much uncertainty, so much lack of security, so much vulnerability is harmful to the nations health and will take many years, probably a whole generation to repair.

In addition I would say that not enough thought is being given to those who already suffer from a mental condition. There are many sufferers in our society, diagnosed and undiagnosed who are under all those same strains but lack the healthy coping mechanisms that most people have. I really feel for them. I have a mental illness (PTSD) and have suffered a few unpleasant setbacks during these last 60 days. Fortunately I have learned to recognise symptoms and deal with them but many people will break.

One of the defining features of mental illness is the amount of secrecy and dishonesty surrounding both the condition and the sufferer. My own grand father was labelled a lunatic, was regarded as such by his own family, and conveniently forgotten about once he was committed to an asylum. We can openly discuss how a person is affected by a broken limb but not how the same person is affected by depression. There is a very long way to go before mental health care is up to a decent civilised and humane standard. When it is possible to walk into a psychiatric equivalent of A&E we would at last have got somewhere.

Openness and honesty is critical and so too is empathy but above all, in my view society needs a sea change in its attitudes to what even now, in 2020, seems to be regarded as  health dust under the carpet. Society needs to cultivate a genuine desire to understand how it feels for a sufferer and engage with mental health on a non-judgemental basis.

I have certainly changed my outlook on mental health issues since I became a victim of excess stress and got to understand mental illness more. Existing services, already over stretched, will have the after effects of The Covid to deal with and society must begin to prepare for that now. Everyone has a part to play.

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