We are encouraged to always try and talk about our mental health. But with so many different aspects impacting our mental health, especially during the global pandemic we all find ourselves in, information about mental health can become quite overwhelming. Our wonderful colleague, Sue, has put together a simplified summary of different parts of our mental health and how we’ve recognised it as an organisation, as well as some useful signposts for your interest.

World Mental Health Day is a day to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness and the theme this year was Greater Investment and Greater Access.

“The experience I have had is that once you start talking about [experiencing a mental health struggle], you realise that actually you’re part of quite a big club.” — Harry, Duke of Sussex

Harry, Duke of Sussex, on mental health.

Covid Fatigue

Covid Fatigue. Not being able to spend time with family and friends, being isolated from our work colleagues and anxiety about our futures has led to covid fatigue for many of us.

Since March 2020 the world has felt the effects of the global pandemic. Isolation and loneliness was already an issue for many before the pandemic. Social isolation and social distancing has led to feelings of fear, anxiety, increased feelings of loneliness and despair for many and the long term effects on all aspects of our lives are yet to be seen. Changes in how people are being supported has left many with less face to face visits and therefore less opportunity for people’s mental health issues to be seen and supported. Regular changes to Covid-19 guidelines has led to confusion and anxiety for many, with people not always being clear about what they can and cannot do. During our discussions in our Collaborative Action Group meetings, we have had time to reflect on the connection between keeping ourselves physically well, the importance of connecting with others and being mentally and emotionally well.

YiS Counselling Service put on a virtual mental health festival for World Mental Health Day, to raise awareness with interactive activities, and to keep us all connected and talking about our mental health, particularly children and young people. You can see what they got up to on their youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMDCfkeSTgMxh9N75-EHXDQ

Green Spaces

More people are realising that it is important for their emotional wellbeing to spend time outside and during lockdown people’s interest in, and use of, green spaces increased. Research has found that engaging in nature and paying more attention to wildlife has a positive impact on our wellbeing and in August, we held a themed Collaborative Action Group meeting which looked at how being involved in improving our green spaces can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The 5 Ways Of Wellbeing

Jon Manning from Arthur Ellis was one of the speakers at our themed Collaborative Action Group smeeting and talked about The 5 Ways Of Wellbeing. This looks at the 5 aspects of our lives which are the cornerstones of our wellbeing;

  • to connect with others
  • to be active
  • to take notice
  • to give and
  • to keep learning

Work Life Balance

The National Work Life Week takes place from 12th – 16th October. It is a time for both employers and employees to look at the work/life balance. During the week employers can provide activities for staff and look at their flexible working policies and practices.

Many more people are now working from home and work is often more ‘brain draining’ than physically draining. Working from home can lead to people spending hours alone in front of a computer screen, further compounding social isolation. Increasing workloads and the increasing ability (and need, due to the pandemic) to work remotely from home has resulted in the need for us to be even more aware than ever of the work life balance.

Social Media

Social media and mental health – It has been estimated that by 2021 there will be 3 billion monthly users of social media around the world. A great amount of research has been carried out with regards to social media and mental health. Anxiety, isolation and the fear of missing out have been found to be a major concern with regards to young people in particular and social media, which can result in low mood and less life satisfaction.

Digital Exclusion

Despite research having shown the concerns with regards to some aspects of social media use, the digital world has been found by many during lockdown to have been a lifeline to the outside world. In our Collaborateive Action Group meeting,s many groups have stated that more people have been attending online meetings than would have attended before lockdown at face to face meetings.

As more of the world goes online there has been an increasing realisation that many people are experiencing digital exclusion, further compounding feelings of isolation and loneliness. ‘Silver Surfer’ clubs have been set up and the idea of internet cafes has been discussed. The need to get more laptops and computers to children who do not have access to them has been looked at, but the need is becoming greater than ever.

Digital exclusion is an issue which has been regularly brought up in our Collaborative Action Group meetings and we will be completing some work to look at this issue with Catalyst. Due to the lockdown and ongoing restrictions people have been unable to attend support groups and take part in their communities in ways in which they had previously been able to and digital exclusion has further compounded the ability of people without access to the digital world to take part in activities online.

Volunteer Wellbeing

‘Look after yourself before looking after others’ is a well known phrase. A concern with regards to ‘volunteer burnout’ has been raised at the Collaborative Action Group meetings and Community Action: MK has been able to secure a kind donation of support from two counsellors from The Well Being Therapy Centre. There has been a concern that volunteers might have supported others so much during the pandemic that they have not always looked after their own well being and have put the needs of others before their own needs.

Now more than ever, we need to look after ourselves and be mindful of our emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Useful Signposts & Reading