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Reflections: On mental health

Oct 11 2020 • 2 min read • Mental Health

Checking in with yourself and loved ones?

South Africa has declared October Mental Health Awareness month. This year it coincides with us coming out of a severe lockdown period, where we weren’t able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life that we took for granted, like a tight squeeze hello from a loved one. Who would have ever thought it was possible to celebrate one’s 40th via zoom? Not in a thousand years if you had asked any one of us as we toasted goodbye to 2019 and prepared for 20 Plenty, now referred to by some, as 20 Empty.

We cannot overlook the effects of lockdown, not only economically as more commonly reported, but on our mental wellbeing, even on the most resilient, no one has been left unscathed. We watched as 2020 plans crumbled before our eyes, some of us (at least myself), were worried whether our parents would survive, and if they didn’t, whether it would have been possible to lay them to rest with the travel restrictions. Oh yes that’s another thing, who would have imagined funerals via Zoom?

It is reported that before the pandemic as a society, we faced many risks that negatively impacted our overall wellbeing, with a trend towards a reduction in the quality our lives. Pre-Covid, we had rampant inequality, indebtedness, and strained home lives where children had sadly become accustomed to not their seeing parents, and some parents equally, experiencing severe burnout from increased work pressures. Interestingly, the WHO cites that pre-Covid, the global economy lost about US$1 trillion per year in productivity due to depression and anxiety.

We can all agree that one of the worst effects from the pandemic was the loss of human contact, with friends, family and even that odd conversation with a stranger. Now that we are in level one and are slowly starting to venture out, we are doing so cautiously without the freedoms of the past. We are reintegrating and returning to what is currently an unknown normal, with a potential resurgence around the corner.

As we transition to the last quarter of 2020, it is important to firstly check in with yourself, on your disappointments and losses, to understand which parts of you need to be restored, as we all didn’t escape the lows of lockdown. Some of us watched our colleagues and neighbors struggle with keeping afloat mentally and financially. Whilst some were affected by the psychological trauma of living in isolation and fear, admittedly or otherwise.

May this be the year that gifted us with the empathy that will see us pay attention to and take care of our mental health and support colleagues and loved ones to do the same.

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