What a difficult year it’s been.
We’ve endured three lockdowns, months of restrictions, lonely periods of self-isolation, many lost jobs, home schooling, children fearful and fractious, food banks struggling to meet demand, unsettling anxiety and the world’s fifth highest death rate.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all. I know I have.
Coronavirus harms our communities in many ways, with devastating personal tragedies, too. We struggle to maintain an equilibrium, living on top of each other; next to inconsiderate, lockdown-breaking neighbours, days of endless home-working and little or no contact with our extended families and friends.
No wonder UK online searches for terms like ‘panic attack’ hit record levels. Six million people were prescribed anti-depressants in the three months to September, more than ever before. I found sleeping almost impossible.
When it gets too much, I turn off the news channels, play my sax for ten minutes, turn on ClassicFM, or grab a book. It is hard talking about my feelings: about my fears. My postbag tells me it’s the same for many of us.
We’re bombarded with public health reminders to wash our hands, wear a mask, stay home and keep our distance; but Government offers scant advice to help us safeguard our mental health. This is a damaging oversight. It can be hard to give ourselves permission to take a break, to look after ourselves and ask for help.
Talk to your GP, if you need a bit of help managing the stress, sleeping at night or calming those inner fears. There are local mental health support services and the Samaritans. If you think you could do with just a little support to take the edge off, give them a call.
The rules are easing. We’ll see our friends, family and loved ones again. I dearly hope this is the beginning of the end of this difficult time. However, I fear it will bring other challenges, as our economy begins to reveal the damage wreaked by the virus and the poorly-executed Brexit.
It’s so important, we give ourselves some love and seek help, if we need it.
See the London Borough of Newham’s website for details of the mental health services available in your local area: https://www.newham.gov.uk/health-adult-social-care/mental-health-support-services
The London Borough of Newham operates a 24-hour Mental Health Crisis helpline, if you or anyone you know needs to speak to a mental health professional: 0800 073 0066
If you think you need professional help, but are not sure which kind of service you need, you can consult NHS Direct by phone number at any time: 111
You can also access NHS Direct advice online at: 111.nhs.uk
To talk anonymously about any difficult thoughts or feelings, you can call the Samaritans by phone: 116 123
If you’re not ready to talk, you can e-mail the Samaritans: firstname.lastname@example.org
In case of emergency, call: 999