29 April 2020
The current epidemic has pretty much affected everyone in some form or another, but what it’s also had is a huge effect on our mental health. Constant news streams about disaster and panic, fears for our loved ones and our personal financial situations or employment combined with an inability to see friends or family, destress by going on holiday or play sports to release anxiety all adds up. This has an impact on our mental wellbeing, and we should be quite frank about it; isolation can exacerbate underlying anxieties.
What can you do? Have you joined some of the virtual pub quizzes, or created one for friends and family? Have you joined the self-isolation Facebook groups, where there are many others feeling the same as you? Are you aware of the Meet Up online groups? Have you called your friends and family and asked them how they are feeling? Has anyone asked you how you are feeling?
I know, as a man, that we bottle our mental health up and I personally struggle to discuss even my most worrying anxieties about the current situation to my wife, let alone my friends and family and we need to move away from this daft mindset.
Did you know that half of all working days lost in the UK are due to anxiety, stress or depression? Or that 1 in 4 of us have experienced a diagnosable mental health problem in the last year, or that physical health problems commonly lead to mental health problems and vice versa? What affect would a back injury that prevents you from working for several weeks or months have on your mental health? Or how well would you look after your physical health if you were depressed? The 2 are completely intertwined, yet we still treat it as taboo. In fact, when applying for protection insurances, it is the area most likely to be undisclosed to the insurer, so why is there this big taboo?
Mental health has to lose this taboo and it starts with us, especially with men. Men are more than 3 times more likely to commit suicide and it is the biggest killer of men under 45. Next time you speak to your friend, father or brother, ask them how they’re doing, and then ask them how they’re doing mentally. Only by making it normal can we talk openly about it and really, it is just that; it’s normal.
If you personally struggle to talk openly about it, then there are other areas of support. There are online and telephone support and counselling services and most income protection, critical illness and life insurance providers offer free telephone counselling services as part of their packages, so speak to your current provider or ask your protection adviser for a recommendation. Most of all, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t forget it’s normal, don’t forget your friend, partner or relative may be struggling to talk to you about it so don’t forget to ask them about their mental health too.