The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is loneliness.
This blog will hear from two members of our Twogether family.
Richard Sapsed, who shares his experience of mental health, and Sophie Mitchell, who has become one of our Mental Health First Aiders.
Richard Sapsed, COO
Covid has had and will continue to have, a long-lasting impact on mental health in all corners of society. And when it pulls you into its downward spiral, getting out can be a real fight. The past two years have enforced loneliness on so many.
My journey with mental health goes back to my teenage years and, showing my age, back then it was still a relatively taboo subject. I remember vividly going to see my doctor at 18 and being told ‘life’s tough get on with it, 'man up’. I now look back at that melancholy moment and realise this appointment defined my life to my early 30s, where luckily times had changed and my doctor referred me to counselling support.
I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. After several sessions with my therapist, I had a eureka moment – I understood this was my brain f’ing with me. I felt 100ft tall walking out of that session and I knew what I needed to do to break the spiral. Climbing back up was tough, but with the support of friends and family, I slowly worked my way back.
I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘cured’ but I have indicators and signposts that I use to let me know that I’m back on that downwards spiral. One of those is a feeling of loneliness. Covid imposed this on us, spending less time with family, friends and colleagues. I, for one, have been guilty of not getting myself out of this ‘new normal'.
This year's awareness week has reminded me that I need to break this pattern. I want to reignite old friendships and visit or speak to the family members that I have not for years, along with spending more time with the kids exploring nature!
Sophie Mitchell, Mental Health First Aider
We all have mental health, and much like physical health, it needs looking after. One in four of us will experience a mental health issue in any given year, so it is highly likely that someone may develop ill mental health themselves or be in close contact with someone who does.
There is a lot of stigma still associated with ill mental health, which can lead people to hide difficulties from others. There are also many myths about mental health issues, which again, may cause avoidance or lack of help. But one of the first steps to help someone is to listen and communicate with them non-judgmentally and supportively.
If you are ever feeling lonely, there are actions you can take to lift yourself out of that slump:
- Try arranging a work call instead of sending that Teams message. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of written communication!
- Try voice notes instead of texts. Same applies. You’d be surprised how much easier it is too.
- Reach out to your team, and see if people fancy an office trip at some point. We’re creatures of habit, sometimes we need a little push to be in person.
- Remember to check in on others too – if you’re feeling that way, chances are you aren’t alone
- See if someone wants to join you for some fresh air. Screen time can lead to digital fatigue, which can also make you feel burnt out. It’s a lovely way to connect, without the need for electronics.
As a Mental Health First Aider, I am there to offer help to any person developing a mental health issue, experiencing worsening of an existing mental health issue or in a mental health crisis. We have been taught to spot the early signs of mental health issues, how to offer and provide initial help and how to signpost a person towards appropriate treatment and other sources of supportive help. Please know that I always have the time and space to listen if you reach out. Nothing is too small an issue.
If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to one of our MHFAs, there are plenty of other resources available to help you such as:
- Samaritans – crisis and emotional support for everyone
- SaneLine – crisis and emotional support for everyone
- Mind Infoline – advice and information on mental health