In my blog for World Suicide Prevention Day, I discussed the need for individual action and the acknowledgement of accountability to spark conversations and encourage change. This is not an alien or abstract theory and yes, it still applies when we collectively look at how we can tackle mental health in general. 

It’s for that reason that I echo the core message from my last blog and ask you to think about why we should be proactive in order to eliminate stigma and instigate real change, and why it is even more important to do so at this point in our lives. 

We all have to remember that 6 months ago, we lived every day in a totally different way than we do now. We enjoyed countless freedoms and privileges that we maybe took for granted, and that the large majority of us (if we’re being honest) didn’t even commit any time to appreciating it because it was part of our normal everyday routine. Therefore, it is important to remember just what kind of toll that a break in the cycle can have on even the most mentally sound of people. An inability to travel where you want to, being stopped from congregating with friends and family, going on holidays, weddings, sports events, concerts and adventures being taken away from you. Being told you’re working from home for the foreseeable or even worse, that you’ve lost your job, and then there’s being told you have to essentially take every reasonable precaution and adopt a sense of preventative paranoia for everyone else around you and hope that they’re taking the same measures as yourself. That is an awfully big change for any one person to make.

It’s no wonder that people’s mental health is being affected. It’s a sudden, violent and ruthless change to our everyday. It breeds anxiety and uncertainty, fear and helplessness and with it being an unprecedented and uncharted occurrence in most of our lifetimes, we struggle to find that light at the end of the tunnel. But that light is most definitely there and by sheer perseverance, grit and determination, we will get through to the other side.

So now, more than ever, reach out and connect to those around us. Send that text message to a friend you haven’t heard from for a while and ask, ‘Are you ok?’ Make a Zoom call or FaceTime a family member to check in and see how they’re doing or even just put out a social media statement announcing you’re there to talk if anyone needs it. Be the human reminder that there is support out there and that those who are hurting, or suffering need not do it in silence and solitude as this pandemic would have them believe.

Despite the changing weather and autumn and winter looming, encourage people to wrap up warm, get out and about and get that air in their lungs. Check if your friend fancies a socially distanced walk to get away from the house and get some things off their chest. It could be the difference maker.

“Be kind” – It’s a reminder that not everyone will feel as though they have the strength to carry on; be mindful of that and think how your words and actions will influence and affect those around you, even if they don’t obviously or outwardly suggest there is an issue. 

We will tackle this problem together because we are stronger together. We accept that life is challenging and that some of us are more susceptible to feeling those challenges than others, and that’s ok. We reach out and support those around us because it’s what we deep down hope they would do for us. We put an end to stigma and learn to live with our anxieties and never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

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