by Geraldine Hamilton, Regional Trauma Network and Psychological Therapies Lead, HSCB.
This pandemic is having an impact on our mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Going into lockdown and isolating to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the vulnerable in our society has created for some, a sense of fear, loneliness and anxiety.
As we emerge from our locked down world, the many unknowns and the sense of unfamiliarity can be equally frightening and confusing.
It’s important to be reassured that these reactions are totally normal. Covid has indirectly affected every one of us, changing our home, work and financial circumstances, affecting our mood and sense of wellbeing.
Sadly, for many, Covid has directly impacted on their lives. Families have lost loved ones and have not been able to say goodbye or had the physical comfort and support of relatives and friends at wakes and funerals.
For those who have survived Covid, the battle continues after leaving hospital.
Recovery can be a long and exhausting process for former patients and their families.
People suffering with pre-existing mental health conditions may have become more disconnected from the services and supports that were vital to keeping them well.
Key workers in health and social care and across the community and voluntary sector have also been working under significant pressure; balancing dedication and duty of care along with anxieties about their own physical safety and the safety of their families.
Statutory, community and voluntary sector organisations have come together to raise awareness of mental health issues and point people towards the information and services that are available.
A series of online resources has been created and collated to provide guidance and support. They can all be found at https://www.mindingyourhead.info/.
Dedicated help and support is also available if you are a key worker or volunteering in your community.
Our promotional activity has been geared around awareness raising events like Men’s Mental Health Week and Loneliness Week.
These awareness raising weeks happen every year but in these ‘unusual times’ they feel more relevant.
Many people will be experiencing feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation for the first time. So it is timely to remind ourselves about looking after our mental health and emotional wellbeing and of the importance of showing compassion and kindness to ourselves and others.
Take time to appreciate who we are as individuals, recognising and understanding the complexities of our lives and valuing our different strengths and experiences, our common humanity and the importance of reaching out for help if needed.
I hope that the experience of the pandemic and the important messages about our emotional health and mental wellbeing creates a kinder and more compassionate society where people feel safe to speak openly about suffering and confident to ask for help and receive it.
I hope it encourages us to reflect on our resilience and strengths as individuals and as a society and increases our collective understanding that emotional distress and mental ill health should not be hidden and stigmatised.
If you are experiencing feelings or thoughts that cause you increasing stress and feel like you need help please contact your GP.
The Life Line https://www.lifelinehelpline.info/ hour counselling helpline is also available if you feel you are in crisis.