Raising awareness around mental health was at the top of Help and Hope Southcoast's list of things to achieve when we started this blog last year. It was mid-summer 2020 and COVID-19 was on everyone's minds. Most people who could work from home were already doing so, and the routines of mask-wearing and social distancing were well in place.
Anxiety was rising as infection rates grew and the fear and isolation from lockdown measures was leading many of us to think and talk more about mental health and how important it is.
News headlines quoted research studies about the impact the pandemic was having on people’s mental wellness, and more and more of us began to accept the idea that mental health is not just something that affects others - those individuals who’ve been diagnosed with a specific mental health challenge - but something that affects all of us.
The world had flipped upside down. There were new rules for everything and suddenly chatting about taboo topics didn't seem so strange. And since everyone was feeling the mental and emotional strain at some level, more of us wanted and needed to talk about what we were experiencing.
Fast forward one year and I think we are all still surprised at how much the pandemic changed and expanded the conversation around mental health.
We may not have fully normalized the process of taking care of it as much as we care for our physical bodies, but we’ve narrowed the gap a lot. It’s odd to think of it now, but before COVID, “mental health days” were still seen as something of a joke, a chance to play hookey and shirk one’s responsibilities for the day. Now we know they are a responsible way of supporting ourselves.
So, while we aren’t free of the virus yet and we may be facing another season of restrictions and challenges from COVID-19 variants, we’re better prepared than we were last year.
We’re more comfortable living with uncertainty. We’ve learned that we are not alone in our struggles, that we can ask for help and receive it, and, perhaps most importantly, that we can make a difference in someone else’s life by listening to them actively and compassionately and supporting them.
We’ve come a long way in one year.
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