Do you know what has narked me most about the pandemic (notwithstanding the obvious loss of life)? The number of people sprayed all over the media talking about mental health. Politicians bandy the phrase about to show how woke they are to the needs of the ‘Great and Resilient British People’. Journalists wield it like an axe at politicians as yet another unanswerable question in their campaign to become the new Jeremy Paxman. Everyone who has a voice or a platform finishes every comment with “ … and of course we have to consider the impact on people’s mental health”.

I don’t know about you, but none of these people have asked how I’m doing. They speak for me, for you, for everyone, with no authority, no mandate, no conviction (mostly), not because they care, although I don’t doubt that some of them do, but because it has become required rhetoric.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind them talking about it. I mind them talking about it, highlighting its importance and then not doing anything about it. How much extra funding has been announced for mental health support? How much time and effort is going into recruiting the additional counsellors, psychotherapists, social workers et al that we are undoubtedly going to need over the next few years? How much additional training are GPs getting to deal with anxiety, depression, panic attacks? How much free training on mental health first aid is being provided for volunteers at sports clubs, social clubs, Scout groups, etc by the government (not the charity sector who handle almost all of this currently)? If any of it is being done, how do you access it? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but on the basis that I have not heard one word about any of it from an official source, I’m going to guess, not much.

A source close to the Prime Minister (and yes, I do actually have a source close to the Prime Minister) said that his response to some of these questions was that he was so impressed with the resilience of the British people. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

In a previous life, I had an office and people traipsed into it asking me for stuff, or money, or resources, or help. Nine times out of ten, I would point to a sign on my wall that said, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” That usually did the trick. So, yeah, me. And yeah, now.

So how are you doing?

If you’re good, then great.

But how are you really doing?

Out of 10?

Reason I ask again is that Time to Change, a social movement working with the MIND charity reckon that just asking once doesn’t often produce an honest response. But the second time, or a graded question is more likely to. I’m not making it up, check out #AskTwice if you do that twitter stuff.

You might be thinking, ‘Not so good, but I’m not talking to you, in fact I’m not ready to talk to anyone’. Fair enough, talk to yourself. They say it’s the first sign of madness, but I’ve got a lot more sense out of it than I ever have talking to some other people! I’m not making that up either. Top Tip number 1 from MIND in the brochure they have produced with Club Matters is, Reflect on your Own Mental Health. Try writing it down if you like. Sometimes that helps. It’s helping me now.

If you’re comfortable reaching out to someone, do it.

“Mental health problems can affect anyone, but my misconceptions and fear of judgement prevented me from speaking out for a long time” (straight off Time to Change’s website, a bloke called Barry).

If someone reaches out to you and you’re comfortable with it, my advice (what do I know, but here it is anyway), is just listen to them. You’re not responsible for them, you’re probably not a life coach, you almost certainly won’t have the answers, but listening helps, and by the way, really listening is harder than you think, but it really helps.

If you’re not comfortable being reached out to and someone does, tell them that. Your safety is as important as theirs but maybe you can point them somewhere that can help. Or maybe you need somewhere. I’ve listed a few links below to organisations that know their stuff in this area (list is not mine, it comes from my college tutor who is a highly qualified practicing counsellor, who also knows his stuff in this area).

We can speak of this as much as you like, or we can never speak of it again. Whatever you’re comfortable with.

Two years ago we lost one. No more.   

  

Bucks Mind www.bucksmind.org.uk/services

Bucks Mind is part of the national Mind group and looks after Bucks and East Berks. For details of services and contact details, download the doc.
Buckinghamshire Mind info.pdf Buckinghamshire Mind info.pdf
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Type : pdf
Campaign page dedicated to ending mental health discrimination and stigma. Can signpost you to a number of agencies. Can't get the link to work, but try typing in your browser or googling.

Male oriented mental health charity with a lot of celebrity endorsement. Check out Joe Marler's short video. Another dodgy link, as above.

Very blokey and slightly dodgy name but a good organisation, whose link does seem to work..  https://mangang.org/
Club Matters leaflet published in association with Mind