Has the virus offered us a mental health opportunity many can’t see?
As I sit writing this it is day 59 of the lockdown in the UK due to the Coronavirus. I was one of those people who initially foolishly thought that I would use this time to get fit, to get healthy and to get organised. I was also one of those people who found myself crying for no reason, unable to get out of bed and sometimes could barely string a sentence together.
I thought of myself as strong, as resilient I mean I was a police officer for 10 years but something about this unknown enemy made me and others think about our mental health more than we ever had.
And I know we have a long way to go yet, but I for one am encouraged by the conversations that I see on social. We have started talking about mental wellbeing and health not like it is for the few but for the many.
I have for a long time talked about how the conversations around mental wellbeing and health need to change to be more normal, to not stigmatise and to be more empowering. And from what I see due to current circumstances people have had to find their own solutions which has perhaps empowered them a little to believe they can handle this more than they thought.
I am also aware for some this has been a real struggle and an extremely difficult time and I feel for them. But at least now maybe we can empathise a bit more and have a bit more understanding.
But I do think that an opportunity had arisen from all this and that is for us to start talking and teaching about mental resilience in perhaps a way we haven’t before. With shared personal experience comes shared learning, shared solutions and a shared recovery.
I’m also left contemplating the term so often used to describe our current youth ‘the snowflake generation’ I never agreed with the name and now I think perhaps the world will rethink it as our youth have dealt with one of the most difficult times most of us can remember and not only that they have shone. They have supported each other, got creative, found ways to deal with their own anxieties and learnt how much human connection really is worth.
They is no shadow of doubt in my mind that the world that young people go back to when it’s safe to do so will be more gentle perhaps, more kind, more understanding and more technology-driven.
And I think it provides us with an opportunity to grab what they have learnt and use it to start discussions about mental resilience and wellbeing in ways that encourage self-efficacy. This shared experience is a unique event that I would love to build on.
Let’s think about how this might work in theory
So we know that to change any behaviour we need to look at identity and any behaviour change is an identity change fundamentally. Here is the thing, what has happened globally with the virus has in most of us forced an identity change. It has in some way big or small changed the way we think about ourselves, the world and what we are capable of. So that change is happening and what we can do is capitalise on that by asking super-smart questions of the young people in your lives.
What do you think changed for you during this time period?
How do you think you have changed?
How has your view of yourself changed?
How has your view of others changed?
What small things did you do daily to get you through lockdown?
When you were feeling low what did you do?
Who did you turn to for support and why?
If there was no one to support you what would you do?
The list is endless and while these questions seem simple the response from children and young people could create a powerful framework for their own resilience.
Think about it what we would get from these answers is an individual mental resilience and wellbeing plan based on what has worked for them in the past. We have the opportunity to put the power back in the young people’s/children’s hands and show them that for most they have all they need, they are more powerful than they ever thought.
Covid 19 has given the world a unique opportunity to talk about mental health and wellbeing in a way like never before. An opportunity for us to start talking and teaching about mental resilience in perhaps a way we haven’t before. With shared personal experience comes shared learning, shared solutions and a shared recovery.
I really hope that is acknowledged and discussed at schools when our children go back and in homes before they do.