On the one year anniversary of the UK going into lockdown, we look at three mental health news stories worth your time today
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the beginning of lockdown here in the UK. For some of us these 12 months have stretched out for what feels like eons, holding within them some of the toughest times we’ve ever had to endure. For others, living life like groundhog day has made it hard to distinguish one day from another, causing them to merge into one amorphous blur.
However time has moved for you, the anniversary no doubt feels poignant. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, experienced a dip in your mental health or struggled at work, many of us have encountered at least one dark cloud this year.
Holding space to honour this and seeking positive change, today there are three moments taking place in the mental health world.
National day of reflection
Since we first went into lockdown, thousands of people have lost their lives and countless more left bereaved. With lockdown restrictions in place, grieving has been difficult. Hugging loved ones and attending funerals has been impossible for some.
“So many people are grieving right now, some directly as a result of the virus, others through the normal ebbs and flows of life, but all are united in the isolatory-nature of grieving within the constraints of a global emergency.
“So many of our well-worn rituals and go-to places of support are either unavailable to us or much changed leaving us somewhat frozen in certain aspects of our grief process.” Counsellor Michaela Murphy writes in her article Grieving without hugging.
In this video, Amy shares her story of losing her dad just before lockdown started.
In a bid to reflect on our collective loss, support those who’ve been bereaved and plant seeds of hope for a brighter future, today end of life charity Marie Curie asks us to come together.
At 12 noon join the nation for a minute of silence to remember those no longer with us. At 8pm there’ll be another chance to hold a minute of silence while lighting a candle (or shining a torch) by your window for everyone to see.
Today we’re also asked to connect with someone going through bereavement. You may not be able to hug or be there in person, but you can call, send a message, card or flowers - anything to remind them you are there for them.
Find out more and get involved with free online talks and events taking place today at the Marie Curie website.
CALM campaign for a new emoji to express your feelings
Telling people how we truly feel can be tough. There has been an onslaught of emotions this year as we’ve all ridden the ups and downs of the coronacoaster and expressing when we’re in a dip isn’t always easy. Recognising this, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and comedian and actress Rosie Jones are calling on the Unicode Consortium to add a new emoji into circulation.
The emoji itself perfectly depicts ‘feeling like crap’ in the form of an unhappy pile of poo, reimagining the existing poo emoji which is used to represent silliness.
Rosie says: “I am proud to be the CALM ambassador for this emoji campaign. It's been a tough year for everyone and I have certainly had times when I have been low, and felt isolated from my friends and family. This emoji is a great way to tell loved ones that things aren’t great. It's an easy and simple way to reach out for help and start the conversation.”
This time last year, CALM (a charity leading a movement against suicide) saw a 40% increase in demand for their helpline services and in the last year they’ve answered a staggering 123,075 calls and web chats.
Surveying over 2,000 people, CALM researched current emojis and noted the gaps. Only 13% of those surveyed felt there was an existing emoji that helps them express when they’re struggling with their mental wellbeing.
The aim is to offer people an easy and accessible way to broach a difficult subject. Emoji expert Dr Philip Sergeant agrees:
“Emojis are an excellent way of expressing emotion online - in fact, this is one of the main reasons for their huge success. And although the popular image of them is upbeat and perhaps even a little bit frivolous, they’re used for all sorts of important, often serious situations. So they can be a perfect way to quickly and easily highlight how you’re feeling, and reach out to those around you.”
Show your support for the campaign by sharing the emoji image on social media, tagging @theCALMzone on Twitter, TheCALMzone on Facebook, @calmzone on Instagram (where you can also post the image via Giphy) and use the #feellikecrap hashtag.
The First Aid (Mental Health): Ten Minute Rule Motion
Having a compulsory mental health first-aider in the workplace is taking a step closer to becoming law today. Dean Russell MP is introducing his Parliamentary Bill and MPs will debate making mental health provision at work a legal requirement during the Ten-Minute Rule Bill. If there are no objections, it will go through to a second reading.
Mental health support at work has been an important topic for a long time now, but the circumstances of the last year have highlighted the need more than ever. In 2020 an estimated 1.9 million workers reported mental health-related absences.
“One of the big reasons I went into politics and public service was to remove the stigma around mental health and improve provision.
“To do that, we need a parity with people’s mental health and physical health in society, and that includes inside every workplace. This has become more urgent now as millions of people will be returning back to their workplaces either in person or virtually – many of whom have had a challenging time dealing with the pandemic and lockdown.” Dean Russell explains.
“If every workplace has a mental health first aider, we can ensure early signposting, guidance and support is available to boost the nation’s mental wellbeing.”
Today's events follow a Change petition created by Where’s Your Head At?, an initiative set up by Bauer Media UK, Mental Health First Aid England and Natasha Devon MBE. The campaign launched the petition in 2018 and has received over 214,000 signatures and support from leaders in politics, business, education and the third sector.
Dean Russell is now an ambassador of Where’s Your Head At? and will support activity launched by Bauer Media brands that raise awareness of mental health in the UK.
The First Aid (Mental Health): Ten Minute Rule Motion will take place in Parliament today at approximately 1pm (timing may be subject to change and could take place later in the afternoon) following BEIS questions. You can watch it live here.
There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging year, and we’re certainly not out of the woods yet. But as flowers start to blossom and the clouds of winter start to lift - there is hope in the air. These three moments are testament to that, they are testament to our resilience, our desire for change and our light that refuses to be snuffed out.
Know that however you’re feeling, you’re not alone. Come together today, reach out about how you’re feeling and connect. If you’re looking for professional support to cope with bereavement or poor mental health, you can connect with a therapist at Counselling Directory.