World Mental Health Day – Learning lessons from Covid

Matt Ellis

October 7, 2021

“Challenging; Positive; hopeful”

This years official theme is “mental health in an unequal world”, to us here at the RWC we felt drawn to exploring the title in light of our new post-lockdown world.

It would be fair to say that the most vulnerable have suffered the greatest in the last 18 months, though it is difficult to find anyone who hasn’t been impacted by the loss caused and complicated by Covid. Loss that we have faced has been in many forms, as a nation in the wake of restrictions, as communities in the face of shortages and personally as we dealt with isolation, anxiety and grief.

These experiences are vitally important to acknowledge, empathise with and take action to heal from, however we also have an opportunity to move forward learning from both this collective and individual experience. Tony recalls his experiences here of loss and isolation and how keeping in touch and being occupied has helped his resilience to never give in!

Never give in! – Only the lonely – Tony

We are all human. No-one is immune to life’s cruel and fatal hand and this is so true when you listen the Rob Webster’s interview that took place as part of the Discover 2020 project (A collaboration between the Mental Health Museum, Heritage lottery fund and Calderdale and Kirklees Recovery and Wellbeing College).

At the time of the interview Rob was the Chief Executive of South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who largely run all the NHS mental health services across Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield and Barnsley local authority areas. Even more poignant that Rob talks honestly about his personal situation, which clearly was not easy, balanced against the demands of work where his personal responsibility was for looking after those most disadvantaged and affected by the pandemic. His experience is personal. But it is also human, positive and hopeful.

Discover – Pandemic Stories – Rob Webster

We learnt what we valued.

The isolation and loneliness that was reported by many of our learners emphasised the importance of human connection however it came especially in lockdown. We now know what Zoom is! We connected with friends and family in new ways – with one learner commenting that our newsletter “Keeping Connected” posted through the door was the highlight of their week!

Conversely having personal space and a choice of how we want to connect with others has been a theme mentioned by some of our volunteers. Video conferencing once feared is now revered! Not having to leave home or a place of safety to connect and meet with others has its obvious benefits!

I valued getting outside, exploring my local area, appreciating nature. Things I would normally take for granted took on greater significance and still do! I love a view and I love to explore. I never realised I could do so much straight from my door!

We also learnt that kindness is not random or in short supply! As Rob reflected in his interview, film producers portray human responses to a crisis as a dog-eat-dog scenario where we end up “killing each other”! But what we witnessed was kindness, compassion and a deep sense of community. People supporting others, doing their shopping, calling up a friend to see if they were OK, taking time to check in! As one of our volunteers Andrew commented, we “may be more physically distant but we are now socially close”.

Physically distanced, socially close. Andrews blog

Covid allowed space to be less busy.

Not to join the rush hours queues; fit in all the family activities and commitments into a chock-a-block diary; have every weekend booked up. I for one felt less stressed, hurried and frustrated! And I have made a personal promise to myself to not to go back to over doing. After all we are human beings.

Jo explores this theme here:

Bittersweet – the lifting of restrictions – Jo

So this World Mental Health Day is different. It is a chance to reflect and hold onto the positives we have learnt from our experiences of this pandemic, hopeful for a better future in what has been the most challenging of times! I wonder what have you learnt and more importantly what lessons will you hold onto?


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