“Long time no see”: Picking your mental health back up post-lockdown

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In 2017, Theresa May unveiled a comprehensive plan to tackle the mental health crisis. Today as the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, the crisis could be worse than ever with charities like Mind and Samaritans warning of the “mental health pandemic” that has grown alongside Covid-19.

A poster at Birmingham New Street Station from twitter user @KatieMaylea85. Photo by Abbey Young

In March this year, the government have announced a ‘Mental Health Recovery Action Plan’ backed by £500 million. It promises to help both people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and more common illnesses like depression and anxiety.

The charity Mind said they are “pleased” about the governments promises as it is no understatement that we are facing a “mental health pandemic”.

There is also a great deal uncertainty around mental health as the world opens back up. Sam Norman, a 22 year old student from Birmingham who was diagnosed with both Autism and Bipolar Disorder during the pandemic.

Sam Norman, Age 22 from Birmingham

He has experienced described feeling as though his existence had been “turned on its head” and said he wonders how full-throttle life will affect him as he emerges from lock-down.

These concepts of the world feeling unfamiliar perhaps have the potential to make restrictions lifting harder than we thought for people who are suffering with illnesses and the nation in general.

Sam also described the losses he experienced during the pandemic making it difficult to feel the same afterwards. He said he struggled to connect with his friends and family at this time and that having “nothing to say to one another” made it very difficult to feel supported.

Samaritans “Real People, Real Stories” campaign poster at Long Eaton Station. Photograph: Abbey Young

Olivia Cayley, the head of Rail Programme at Samaritans told Birmingham Eastside that it is important “we look out for each other” and “encourage those that might need help to reach out for support”. Since travel is now more frequent for many of us, Samaritans and Network Rail hope that their “Real People, Real Stories” campaign will let people know that they are not alone.

They also said “the pandemic has had a profound impact on the nation’s mental health” but are confident in the 22,000 rail and BTP staff that have been trained to identify vulnerable people and start a conversation.

Staying connected even when it’s difficult is so important at this time, Samaritans say their volunteers are always here to help, no matter what you’re facing for free on 116 123 or at jo@samaritans.org

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