The corona virus. No one thought anything of the pandemic at first until we were all prisoners in our own homes. The virus did not care who we were, how much money we possessed or the colour of our skin. It took lives, with the news growing gloomier each day.
Lockdown was a stark reminder of the temporary nature of so much around us. Everything that our lives revolved around such as work, gym, shopping and the cinema were gone. Lockdown stripped away the distractions to leave us with our authentic selves. No distractions. No plasters to cover our wounds. We had all the time in the world during lockdown to be with ourselves, with little distraction from the outside world. We became more aware of our flawed thinking, of the hurt we had learnt to ignore. The society which had distracted us had been ripped away. For some this was a blessing and for others this was a curse.
As a supermarket worker on till checkouts I’ve learnt first-hand what people have to say about lockdown and the way the world is turning. Priorities have shifted. Mindsets have changed. “We didn’t know what we had until it was gone” is the recurrent theme within society right now. Negativity and uncertainty stain the air. Positivity, unfortunately, wears thin, understandably. Loneliness. Anxiety. Depression. There were no more distractions from our mental health. Autonomy was at the forefront with so much spare time on our hands. Many people were isolated and alone, we could not see our family or friends. We were left alone with ourselves.
And here lies the basis of this article: How will mental health be acknowledged and treated after COVID-19? How will mental health care and support adapt and evolve? Normal is not the right phrase to use, because I do not believe that life will return to what it once was before the pandemic. Instead, if nurtured this is somewhat of a new chance for a new perspective and therefore beginning for the world.
The pandemic has raised an important question. Not a question of the world needing to be better, lockdown proved the main issue with the world right now, we as a human race need to be better.
Despite having many negatives, the pandemic has given us – the human race – positives: Pollution levels fell seeing the improvement of many green areas such as that of the canals of Venice, people began to truly appreciate what we actually have and what makes life truly worth living. However, we have focused primarily on the negatives of the situation. A flaw in the way we think. Society has become negative in the way that we think about everything. Negativity seems to come before positivity.
What will the world look like after COVID? Perhaps, in fact hopefully, a vast cognitive restructuring may take place. An increase in mental health taking the forefront, of a new appreciation for what we once had at such ease. Gratitude. A more positive and forgiving viewpoint towards ourselves, a boost in our self-esteems. A change in the way society influences our mental health.
Instead of focusing heavily on the individual being the cause of mental health decline due to genetics and personal problems, focus will hopefully shift to how society impacts mental health as well. A shift in the medical eye from drugs and the individual to treating society itself. How can we make society better, healthier? Society clearly needs to take a shift to a more positive mentality; for example, the way the news is portrayed in such a negative light with rarely any positive news shown as well. This movement has already begun: the Black Lives Matter movement for the elimination of racism for an equal society.
Life after COVID should see another shift towards the improvement of our cognitions and not just the medicinal treatments for our wounded minds. Alongside medicinal treatment, mental health should focus more on the cognitive restructuring: focusing on positivity and the strengths that we have gained during this challenging time.
What possible solutions may arise in life after COVID-19? Life after COVID-19 I believe is the wrong phrase, life will not return to normal but instead settle into something different, and hopefully better. Hopefully, mental health practices will see a shift if society itself is improved after this pandemic. A positive cognitive restructuring. A change in the way we are educated, and the way media is portrayed with a more positive outlook toward ourselves and the world itself.
And so we ask ourselves what is more important to stop first? What has a greater influence over the other? Do we stop the physical spread of the disease or don’t have a lockdown so that mental health does not worse? Boris recently elected to stop the physical spread of the disease with another lockdown until December. Boris decided the answer to this article’s question for me before I had the chance to finish the article.
Or, on a brighter note, is there a way we can make this lockdown easier and better, can we help with the effects it may have on mental health? Can we make more of an effort for online coffee mornings, send gifts to friends, be wary of those who are isolating alone and be sure to care for them a little more? We are all going to get through this together – please remember to wash your hands, wear your masks and socially distance but also to be kind, and reach out.
Photo courtesy of Dan Meyers