A tremendously difficult year
What a rollercoaster the year has been. The number of people reporting poor mental health increased massively due to the coronavirus pandemic. The murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the world, causing many people to question their own biases. And Brexit is finally upon us!
Coronavirus and mental health
There have been so many extra reasons to stress this year. Concerns about health. Uncertainty about money, jobs and housing. Families juggling working from home with home schooling and entertaining children. The loneliness of people living on their own or shielding. The enormous strain on NHS staff and other key workers. Constantly changing lockdown rules and tier systems causing confusion about what you’re allowed to do or not. Gyms, leisure facilities and hospitality (and sadly some mental health support services) closing and being unable to meet with friends and family. A loss of freedom and, for many, a loss of loved ones. It’s no wonder that almost half of the UK population have felt anxious or worried.
Public Health England (PHE) have developed a new Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing surveillance report (HMW) which gathers data from academia and public and voluntary sector reports. Their aim is to have ‘near to real time’ data on the mental health and wellbeing of people and communities across the country.
It’s emerging findings are that some groups have been disproportionally including adults those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those out of work.
We need more help
At a time when people need more mental health support, it’s sad to see services cut. This is the activity room at The Bridge in Harrow, a purpose built centre for mental health run by Rethink. Up until the beginning of lockdown it was used for yoga and other activities to support the mental health of some of the most vulnerable in the community. As the pandemic took it’s toll on people’s jobs and finances, it is now used a food bank. There are regularly queues of over 100 people there.
For almost 8 years, I taught a restorative yoga for mental health class for CNWL NHS trust and Harrow council. For a long time the class was packed and I had a waiting list but over the years due to central government cuts and changes in the way those with mental health access services, I saw the numbers dwindle. The NHS didn’t have the staff to process the funding applications for service users. It’s a truly shocking state of affairs.
Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted how very far we still are from being an equal society. This is particularly true in regards to mental health. Black people are twice as likely to be admitted to mental health inpatient wards than White. And they are more likely to be referred by the criminal justice system than by a GP.
I am very proud to have been asked by Mental Health First Aid England to become a plenary speaker on racism and it’s effect on mental health. I have much personal experience on this subject.
I have joined the faculty at Yogacampus to lecture on Race, Ethnicity & Yoga on their Yoga Therapy diploma. I have taught this module for YogaHub Dublin and London’s MoreYoga and will be teaching on several other yoga teacher trainings next year.
If you would like help in becoming an anti-racist organisation, please contact me.
Supporting your mental health in 2021
If you’re experiencing poor mental health, take a moment from your day to look at the NHS every mind matters campaign for some simple but useful tips and tools to help you manage your mental health.
Look for your local Mind or Rethink for services in your area. And Samaritans are always there if you’re in crisis.
A Mental Health First Aid course can teach you how to spot the signs of mental ill health and provide support, as well as looking after your own wellbeing. We offer both online and in person courses (covid19 restrictions permitting). Find out more and view our upcoming courses.
We wish you a happy, healthy and safe new year!
James & Sital.