This year, the world has changed. Around the globe, people were asked to stay at home, only leave for essentials, attend virtual school or work from home, distance ourselves from other people, wear masks and wash our hands. For some, they lost loved ones, missed exams, missed proms, missed graduations, cancelled weddings. It is understandable then, that in the UK, stress, anxiety and depression levels soared. Our sleep was affected, we exercised less, and ate worse. Our consumption of alcohol increased. Other factors came to a head, like loss of our support networks, loss of income or work and closure of facilities. Young people were hit particularly hard. It all paints a pretty grim picture; some studies suggest half a million more people might experience mental ill health in the UK as a result of Covid-19.
Here on the Isle of Man, these kinds of restrictions didn’t last for as long as our neighbours in the UK. We consider ourselves lucky, and it feels a bit like a strange film scene we’re watching from afar. But we still talk about it. In our office, it’s a common topic of discussion; when will the borders open, so we can see loved ones, go on holiday, go Christmas shopping. In my house, we’ve just sent my sister off to university for her final year – she’s someone who is deemed high risk. We don’t know when we’ll see her again.
Despite all of this, as a human collective, we’ve managed. We were resilient – we quickly moved schools and work online. We organised virtual pub quizzes and virtual date nights. We started to work out by following online videos. We found new recipes and started cooking or baking. Many of us found a new hobby. We found ways to connect in a time where it seemed impossible. We’ve learnt how to talk about our boundaries and respect each other’s more than ever before. We adapted to lockdown, we adapted to each new set of restrictions, and we’ll keep adapting for as long as we need too. The fact we can do that is something to be proud of. This World Mental Health Day, it’s something to be celebrated, however we choose to do it.
The goal for this year’s campaign is increased investment in mental health. We’ve seen how important it is – many of us will have experienced fear, worry, sadness, and stress in a way we simply might not have before. At Isle Listen, we’re passionate about early intervention and prevention in mental health – that means, we intervene before it’s a diagnosable condition, help people learn techniques to manage their mental health, to help prevent them from getting worse and becoming a diagnosable mental health condition. People can access us at the point of need, rather than a point of availability. Statutory mental health services are government funded but work primarily at the point someone has a diagnosable condition and are chronically underfunded compared to physical health services. We need further investment in our mental health services, to ensure people get the help they need, when they need it. This World Mental Health Day, do what you can: have a coffee with a friend, organise a trip out, donate if you have the means, reach out for support if you need it. Be proud of this year, even though it’s been different to what we’ve expected.