Here’s What The Pandemic Has Made So Obvious About Mental Health

One thing that has become more apparent is that the mental health of not only adults but our young people is rapidly in decline. Now, I realize that this sounds beyond cynical, however, if we don’t acknowledge this, our young children are going to grow up in a world lacking resilience and the feeling of safety.

‘Safety’ is not only a physiological feeling. It is also an emotional feeling. If one is feeling emotionally unsafe, it can be just as detrimental as experiencing physical trauma. In fact, mental health is holistic and it needs to be nurtured. For example, if you feel drained and ‘under the weather’, per se, you are more likely to be less resilient than when you are feeling healthy and energetic. This is because our mind and body are connected, thus creating our own being.

I’m sure it is safe to say that the year of 2020 was quite possibly one of the most panic-stricken years our generation has faced in decades. We had all just come back from celebrating the end of the previous year, setting our beloved New Year’s resolutions, feeling ready for a new adventure, when all of a sudden Sky News was flooded with this virus that pathed the way for endless conspiracy theories and angst. I found myself in utter denial that this virus would ever reach my home country, and sooner than I could count to 10, COVID-19 hit and the entire globe was undergoing a pandemic. What? This was something that I had only ever learned about in the history books. Why would the world fall subject to a disease in the 21st Century? Surely there will be a cure before the end of the year? These were all the questions I found myself pondering whilst having to work from home with a three-year-old child who couldn’t understand why he couldn’t celebrate his birthday with his friends from day-care. Not only did this destroy me, but I found myself worrying about every person walking on this planet. I had heard stories where people were having to isolate in their tiny apartments without gardens, stories about people who were stuck in another country due to this deadly virus creeping its way into every corner of the globe. It all felt apocalyptic and dangerous.

As a born South African who immigrated to the United Kingdom, I had the chance to hear firsthand how this virus was impacting on my home country—a third-world country. So not only was there this virus looming, my family was in a country with limited healthcare resources and a colossal population who would only have access to medical care if their bank allowed it. Growing up in South Africa meant that mental health was rarely spoken about. If you were fed and warm, then feeling sad was not an option, despite the traumas of daily life occurring in much the same way as in first-world countries. ‘Weakness’ was not an option.

Fast-forward seven years and I found myself in a juxtaposition of needing to be ‘strong’ but being laden with worries and fears due to a virus. It was during this time when the world stood still that I realized that mental health knows no boundaries, class system, or culture. We are all human beings who are born with the same organs and have labeled feelings that cause us to react in a certain way. Whether or not we are allowed to express these emotions is an entirely different matter. The irony hit me like a ton of bricks as I realized this.

I find that the stigma surrounding mental health is still very apparent today. We are molded to only show the ‘appropriate’ amount of emotion and if we show too much or too little of this, we are considered different, despite us all being homosapiens. We all have the same biological urges, tendencies and reactions to stressful situations. The only aspect that ensures we are not all robots is that we have different personalities and experiences that shape the way in which we view the world, and in my opinion, this can be a good thing because we can all learn from each other yet still hold onto our individuality.

So, while some countries gave their people the support they needed, others completely left theirs to fend for themselves, with vast amounts of people refusing to believe in this tragedy, causing chaos and discomfort to those who took every precautionary measure available. Yet we still surmounted to the same outcome: masks, vaccines, bereavement, fragility, and hand sanitiser. I guess I could liken it to parenting. Some children are blessed enough to have adults in their lives who love and care for them, whilst others feel emotionally and physically unsafe in their households. Different experiences result in different outcomes.

Some countries have bounced back impeccably, while others are still suffering the consequences of the lack of support during the pandemic. And so, as much as this article may be seen as a social commentary, it is more for the purpose of creating awareness amongst us who are able to make a change in our young people’s lives. When we are knowledgeable on certain topics, we can put in the support needed within our communities and households. Understanding and patience are the two most powerful attributes we as human beings can have when interacting with those around us. Every person has their own story, their own fears and anxieties and their own strengths and although celebrating and nurturing different cultures and customs is such a beautiful thing, it is important to remember that at the end of the day, once the world has come to grips with this monstrous virus, we are all trying to muddle through life as best we can. Anxiety is very real. It is a demon that billions of people face on a daily basis and so validating this anxiety is key. We are all on separate journeys trying to reach the same end-point. Let’s help one another cross the finish line boldly and supportively. Ill mental health looks different for everyone, and so let’s celebrate this difference as one.