Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: Why solidarity matters in a pandemic
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Every year, millions of people experience mental health issues that affect their day-to-day life. Increasing awareness and normalisation of mental health issues is crucial in breaking the stigma and opening the door for people to seek the help they need.
This is especially true during a pandemic when more of us than ever are struggling to keep afloat. Self-reported depression rates have increased to 1 in 5 people since the pandemic began.
That’s why this week is so important. As the whole world struggles to make it through each day, we’re alone together. Holding onto that solidarity is important.
For some, the repetitive days offer a sense of routine that lets them function. Sticking to a daily schedule when you can’t leave the house provides a vital sense of stability when the days normally blur together.
Combating loneliness is a bit trickier. Humans are a social species, and being apart from friends and family has filled many with a crushing sense of isolation that’s hard to overcome.
There’s a difference between knowing we’re not alone and feeling like we’re not alone. It can be confusing to scroll through endless posts online asking, “is anyone else feeling terrible?” with a thousand likes while we continue to feel isolated. Clearly, this is a collective issue. We just need better means of communicating with each other.
Though nothing replaces in-person interaction, making use of texts, calls, and video chats can help you stay in touch with those you care about.
Our mental health struggles will not necessarily disappear when the pandemic ends, and many with issues before will still have them afterwards. Keeping ourselves in check is a constant task, so knowing how to support yourself is key.
Accessing mental healthcare on the NHS is the best solution, but long waiting times make it inaccessible to many, so developing coping strategies in the meantime is vital. The pervasive idea that we must do everything alone is damaging and incorrect. Mental health awareness is all about combating this stigma. Reaching out to friends or family who will listen and support you is a simple remedy for improving your state of mind.
Solidarity is essential in coping with tough days. When systemic forces outside your control exacerbate a life-threatening pandemic, and the institutions we are supposed to trust systematically defund mental healthcare, we cannot blame ourselves for struggling. Venting to a supportive person isn’t a cure, but it helps.
Click here for more tips on supporting someone with a mental health problem.
If there’s a mental health lesson to be learned from the past year, it’s that “you’re never alone” is a fundamental truth. Nobody likes an empty platitude, but reaching out is pragmatic advice that can genuinely help.
Now that vaccinations are underway and social gatherings are returning consider meeting someone, going for a meal, or just taking a walk near people. Don’t worry about being awkward – everyone else is in the same boat.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, remember to take as much time as you need, whether that means a week at a time, a day at a time, or minute by minute. Recovery is a long road, but hope is always wise.
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