Of course all these life experiences have been impacting on people’s mental health long before coronavirus. The difference being that people’s experiences were often in isolation, often not believed or minimised, and their emotional distress buried or medicalised. Now this is a collective, global experience, and impact on the mental health of the population is predicted to have long lasting consequences. Since the costs of psychiatric medical or therapeutic interventions, based on what’s currently provided by our mental health services, would be astronomical, perhaps its time to think more radically about alternative models of preventive, restorative, community based approaches.
In our discussion, we talked of other discoveries about our collective mental health during the lock down period. Effectively the world slowed down, our environment improved with better air quality, less noise and more opportunities to walk, cycle and connect with nature; people seemed friendlier and willing to help out others; we all saw what were the most important jobs to keep society going in a crisis; we all realised the very real significance of our connections with family, friends and our wider social networks.
Above all, the past few months have taught us all a lot about compassion: that we just don’t know what struggles others are facing, that we can be kinder and more accepting of how others are feeling, and that we all need to know how to take care of ourselves psychologically to cope with the impact of this pandemic.
‘Lest we forget’ is a phrase commonly used in war remembrance services and commemorative occasions in English speaking countries. As restrictions ease, let’s value what we’ve learned over the past few months and face uncertainty together. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, so let’s keep focus on common humanity and remembering how to take care of each other.