Mental Health Awareness Week... Two Years on!
Back in 2018 who could have predicted the extraordinary times we are all now living through? Two years ago, these current events were things we could have only imagined or seen in a movie or read in a book. So many of the everyday things that we have happily taken for granted for so long, are suddenly no longer available or acceptable and may not be for some time yet.
Something in particular that really caught my attention when reviewing my previous blog, is the use of the word ‘social’ and what it has come to mean for millions, if not billions, of us. It is no secret that I have never been a huge fan or user of ‘social media’ on a personal level. However, as a business owner, I now appreciate its ease of use and the power it can wield. I have also become very aware of the very powerful impact it can have on people individually, when used in either a positive or a negative way. Now, as we find ourselves living under a whole new set of rules, I began to think about the latest use of the word, our new buzz phrase - ’social distancing’.
Social, as defined in the Cambridge dictionary as an adjective;
“relating to activities in which you meet and spend time with other people and that happen during a time when you are not working”
This definition lead me to thinking about what actually is social about ‘social media’ or even ‘social distancing’? Two new phrases that have recently become commonplace in our everyday vocabulary. Are these relatively new but inaccurate uses of the word, inadvertently detracting us from its true meaning? ‘Social’ should be all about uniting and connecting people, in a physical and emotional sense. A recognised and important attribute to our overall wellness and mental health. Has this dumbing down of its true meaning been something that has been festering away even before we entered into this New World Pandemic?
Having suffered with my own Mental Health issues over the years and having found the tools I need to enjoy and maintain a healthy level of clarity and well-being for myself, I have learned the importance of people and human contact. In person contact with friends, family, customers as well as familiar faces in my local grocery store or petrol station are all so crucial for my general mental health. Without them I don’t feel alive, I don’t feel connected. Naturally there are times when a little space for ‘me’ are also welcomed, within moderation and without losing that vitally important human connection.
There have been 100’s of studies on how relationships and the connections we have with others, lead to a happier and healthy life. Social contact is a fundamental basic human need. So now, at a time where many of us have chosen, or been instructed to physically isolate ourselves, we should be asking the question. Has the virtual World gone too far in substituting our real-world contact? Are we in danger of allowing it to become the new norm, even when things return to how they were before Lockdown? Right now, there is no denying that it has been an absolute godsend, allowing us to connect with each other through the various tools that are available. So these tools really do have a place and yes, they have definitely allowed us to continue to socialise and stay connected with people that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen for weeks, possibly months.
There are undoubtedly lots of people out there who feel much safer in a virtual World. Does that mean that this new normal that we are currently living in, has allowed even more people to slip into the abyss of the virtual World? How will this affect them in the long term? Are we going to see a rise in social isolation, loneliness and mental health cases?
Can we stop it? Yes we absolutely can. We can start by taking responsibility for our own personal well-being. We can look out for ourselves, taking stock of our social interactions. I can’t be the only one who has noticed that people are now smiling at each other more in the street, thanking each other for making way on a narrow path. This could be a natural response to our decreased social experiences from the past months. Are you still talking to people? Are you making sure you are getting out of the house at least once a day? Are you working to maintain and nurture your personal relationships? As humans we tend to resist change and although we very quickly adapt to new routines, this may not always be for the best. We are at our basic level, social creatures reliant on the comfort and security of being part of a larger group.
We can also choose to look out for others who may be living alone or even people within your closer proximity who find it easy to withdraw. Now more than ever is a time to look out for each other. We have seen so many pure acts of kindness, love and compassion over the past couple of months, which is the very theme and dedication to this years Mental Health Awareness week in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s hope that we can maintain and build on these experiences and emotions, connecting with each other and remembering that it is never easier to be alone, to isolate or to accept the unacceptable. We need each other as much now, as we ever did!