By Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council
I’ve written in most, if not all, of my weekly updates since lockdown began, about the impact this pandemic and the restrictions on our lives are having on our happiness and wellbeing.
This has been an extremely challenging time for all of us – and some more than others. People are feeling cut off from loved ones and support networks, worried about their health or the health of loved ones, and facing additional strains such as home-schooling, financial worries and job insecurity. Our usual routines, the things we love to do, have been taken away from us, almost overnight. Our shielded population, who perhaps have even higher levels of anxiety about the possible impact of catching this virus, have been particularly affected – many are feeling isolated and unable to get out of the house even for a daily walk.
All these stresses, pressures and anxieties can add up to a very detrimental impact on our mental health. Nobody is immune from this – we’re reading lots of news articles from psychologists worried about the impact of lockdown on young children and teenagers as well as those elderly and vulnerable groups. Those in the middle are likely trying to parent, work, pay bills, look out for elderly relatives… the list is endless – and are understandably often left feeling overwhelmed or worried.
Thankfully, the old stigma around talking about mental health has been considerably eroded over recent years, and it’s a relief to me that so many of the people I know are not afraid to speak openly about how they are struggling with one or more aspects of life at this time. Talking about it really is the first step and I can assure you that however you are feeling, there are plenty of others in exactly the same boat. Together we can offer some reassurance, empathy and a listening ear, which really can make a huge difference.
In Knowsley, we have some fantastic organisations and groups that are offering mental health support. The excellent Hive Men’s Group, who usually meet weekly at Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park, have taken their meetings online. Our own Public Health Team have put together a special ’10 Ways to Wellbeing’ guide full of tips and advice for people living through this crisis. There are also national resources including the Kind to Your Mind campaign and the local NHS Mental Health Crisis helpline for when you need help urgently.
For young people in Knowsley, we have a free,app that they can download, called Kooth, which allows them to access free counselling and emotional wellbeing support. There’s also the Lee Cooper Foundation which is working hard to support the mental health of teenagers.
As a Governor of Malvern Primary School I have been taking part in regular Zoom calls with teachers and parents and it’s clear that mental health and wellbeing is something they too recognise and know is an important part of the process to get our young people back into school.
We are also recognising the impact on our own workforce and have produced a range of information for them as they adjust to the ‘new normal.’ And there is also the work our Adult Social Care team are doing to provide mental health support to our care home staff through video conferencing with mental health professionals.
We know it’s an issue for so many people and it’s so important we all keep talking.
No matter how old you are, where you work or what you are struggling with, I am confident that there are people and organisations out there that can help you. Even if you don’t want to talk to family or friends, a lot of help and advice is available online.
To make it easier for you, this week we’ve published on Knowsley News a roundup of all the services above that can help and support you – please don’t struggle alone when help is out there for you.
Finally, I’d like to finish by reminding everyone that there’s something very simple we can do to help improve the mental health of those around us – just “be kind”. A simple act of kindness can mean the world to someone right now – and I guarantee that being kind will make you feel a whole lot better, too.