Blogpost: Mental Health and the Covid-19 pandemic

Blogpost by Harlow Councils’ new Mental Health Champion,, cllr Shannon Jezzard

AS it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to touch upon those struggling with their mental health as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Although there are those of us that already have experience of poor mental health, for many people the changing circumstances of lockdown have meant there are new challenges for people to face.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for all of us. Whether it is concerns about job security and income, struggling with being distant from friends and family, or losing a loved one – we have all experienced things to come up against, and for a lot of people this will have impacted their mental health.

Around 2 years ago I was suffering badly with panic attacks, and later got diagnosed with agoraphobia, which is a panic disorder linked to fear of being in situations that you cannot easily escape. It affects my daily life, and at times I have even had to leave committee meetings due to the feeling of a rising panic.

Sometimes these are due to triggers, other times they completely take me by surprise. As a result of this, and as a way of coping, I often find myself dissociating when in stressful or busy social situations.

My agoraphobia is inconvenient and unavoidable, and it impacts the things I love doing and I am passionate about. At times it feels like balancing a fine line of pushing yourself to put yourself out there, and avoiding situations which you feel might stir panic. Mental health issues take many forms, and they do not discriminate.

For me, I have been learning to change the way my brain deals with situations using CBT through Healthy Minds, and trying to establish my own form of self care.

Mental health services in the UK have seen an increasing demand due to Coronavirus, and it has been difficult for those living with mental health issues. In personal experience, I have been avoiding social situations at all except for a fortnightly trip to the supermarket; which I often have to psyche myself up days in advance for, and I have days where my anxiety is so bad it’s quite debilitating.

Whilst we are all excited to see our friends and family, and even return to work, the adjustment back to “normal life” will be difficult for those struggling with their mental health, especially with the added anxiety of potentially catching the Coronavirus.

When life begins to resume normal programming, be mindful of your friends, families and colleagues who may take a bit more time to adjust. Talk to your workplace to ensure there are things in place to help you settle back in. You can speak to your trade union for advice on this. If you’re not in one, join one. Realise that for some, it will be a difficult transition whilst returning to their ‘new normal’.

In the meantime, if you are struggling with your mental health during Coronavirus MIND have some really good resources:
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
We are all different, and we all have our own ways of coping.

I hope you’re all able to get through this difficult time. We must continue to reduce the stigma, get people talking and continue to lobby our MP’s and local representatives for more mental health funding, so people can have access to services they need that are free at the point of use.

Please do reach out if you are struggling. There is no shame
in it. I have spoken to Samaritans on some of my worst days before, and they have been excellent to me. You can contact them here: 116 123

Stay safe and look after yourselves.

Shannon

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