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“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” —Viktor Frankl
This is a quote from a psychiatrist called Viktor Frankl who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning in 1946. He makes the case that those who deal best with the most challenging and difficult life circumstances are those who can find meaning and a sense of control over their environment. What makes his argument incredibly powerful is that he’s describing his own experience as a concentration camp inmate during the Second World War.
The changes we’ve experienced in our lives over the past year may have caused some to ask questions about the meaning of it all, and feel as if their own sense of meaning has somehow come adrift. Others may have discovered a new sense of meaning in their lives.
Over 70 years ago, Frankl identified three ways in which we can find meaning:
Creativity – or giving something to the world through self- expression,
Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.
Another way which I’ve found important is to re-visit my own core personal values from time to time. What we value has a big impact on the meaning we attribute to things, and different aspects of our lives. When we lose sight of what we value in life, it’s easy to lose energy, motivation and our sense of direction.
During the coronavirus outbreak we have all been through enormous change, and some of us are experiencing loss of different types. All of us have been affected one way or the other, through loss of personal freedoms, loss of income, loss of social connections, loss of health, loss of control, and sometimes the loss of someone we love.
The Mental Health Foundation says:
“Whatever the loss, our mind and body will react to this change. Something or someone that was there before is no longer there. Something or someone we depended on as part of our lives has gone. There has been a change. This can shake our world, and how it does so, will depend on what has happened and what support we have in place to cope.”
After the success of our online Mental Wealth Academy during the first lockdown, and thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, we’ve put together a new online programme for 2021, running from Feb-May! Open to all abilities. You might be a complete beginner looking to try out a new hobby, or want to connect with other like-minded people! We’re encouraging participants to take part in the live online sessions to get the most out of their experience, however catch up videos and extra resources will be available within most courses. Also new for 2021 is a dedicated community chat page for participants to engage, connect and socialise on throughout their course!
“An unpaid carer is anyone, including children and adults, who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support.”
Nationally, it is thought that 4.5 million additional people have taken on caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
Some of you may recall the late great Ian Drury. “Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3” was released by Stiff Records in 1979 and reached number 3 in the UK singles chart. The link takes you to an inspiring live performance with the Blockheads in 2010.
As 2020 comes to an end, there are indeed reasons to be cheerful, quite apart from the vaccines on the way. Its been a really tough year and next year will be even tougher for many people, but we’ve also seen waves of unprecedented compassion and courage which should be celebrated and valued in the future. Local communities have rallied to help people in need, whether through isolation, poor health, financial difficulties or bereavement. The pandemic has highlighted those essential services we depend on for a semblance of normality, and the courage of those who keep them going often at risk to themselves and their families. Not only hospital and health care staff, but also teachers and social care workers, supermarket workers, delivery people, factory and farm workers, hospitality and public transport workers.
With the last minute restrictions on Christmas celebrations, perhaps this is a fitting end to a most extraordinary year. And 2021 promises to be another year of uncertainty and challenge. So I thought I’d share this very shortened version of an ancient Chinese parable to reflect on:
Thanks to some funding from the Portsmouth Lottery, we’re celebrating stories of diversity from our inspirational Books Alive! volunteers.
So why not join us for our Books Alive! week? We’ll be sharing an interview with one of our volunteers at 4pm each day, starting on Monday 14 December. These will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and on our YouTube channel
We’re hosting a second online launch event on Saturday 5 December at 10.30am. This is entitled ‘100 years of Mental Health Care in Hampshire’. Carolyn Barber will talk about the outcomes of our 2017 project and exhibition. Carolyn will be joined by Maggie Sawkins, reading poems created from shared memories, and Pip Firth, reading from her grandfather’s personal accounts of his experiences in World War 1.
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice was signed which formally ended hostilities of the First World War in 1918. Remembrance Day is an opportunity to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts. Of course, the casualties that are often forgotten are those who experienced serious mental ill-health as a result of their military service, and also ordinary people caught up in traumatic events through these conflicts.
The theme this year is ‘Mental Health For All’, and it couldn’t be more relevant at a time when coronavirus has highlighted how much our mental health means to all of us.
I’ve done countless group workshops where I ask what words people associate with mental health. Invariably the answers are words like depression, madness, stress, mental illness, psychiatric hospitals. And then when I ask about the term ‘good mental health’, words like happiness, wellbeing, fulfilment, achieving things, active, motivated … come up.