Mental Health Doesn’t Pick Sides.

Once again the UK is divided (where’s the head-in-hands emoji?), this time it’s about the viability of covid-19 lockdowns, and the battlefield, once again, is the media and social media.

I’m all for people expressing views, but I still can’t get my head around the way people behave and talk to others, especially on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.  It’s what I call ‘The Kindergarten Wars’ (which is unfair on kids in Kindergarten because they’re probably more well behaved than most adults) because the arguments descend into a slagging match, where if you don’t agree with someone they simply tell you you’re stupid or start name calling.

I sometimes wonder what the country would be like if all the ‘armchair’ politicians actually got off their arses and did something?  We now have an army of armchair covid-19 experts, who seem to have all the answers.  A lot of fingers get pointed, and blame allocated, but how many people actually take physical action to change things for the better?

Me, I try to keep out of it as much as I can, especially on topics I don’t know anything about.  I don’t know much about covid-19, and let’s face it, very few of us do; I’m not speaking to scientists and experts every day, and I’m certainly not carrying out my own studies. 

The armchair brigade will spread fear and conspiracies without fact based evidence, which I thought was all important these days, after all some people won’t accept century old therapies unless they have a full understanding of how they work.

They probably won’t agree, because they are more intelligent than me, but I get the feeling that the hatred that goes around on social media is actually based on fear.  People generally lash out at others when they don’t know what is happening, they are confused and afraid, their only way of coping is to try and force their will on others, or find relief in a group of like minded people.  There may also be a fear that they will have to admit they are, in part, or completely, wrong!  

Social media is literally in the palm of our hand, and we can get drawn into posts to the point where we have to say something, and end up getting involved in pointless arguments that generally end up in Kindergarten Wars.  

If you were having an argument with someone face to face you could separate, take time to cool of, maybe never see that person again if it were that bad, but with social media, it’s so much harder to do, it draws you back in…. What has the person said now?  Are other people agreeing with me or them?  It can feel like a personal attack that you have to defend yourself from.  That’s one of the reasons that social media can be really bad for our mental wellbeing.  Yes you can unfollow and block people, but the algorithms have more control of your feed than you do.

The main issue I have, and the reason for this blog, is that both sides are now trying to use Mental Health as a tool to support their one-sided arguments.  It’s a bit like when two armies fighting each other believe God is on their side…..

A local politician recently stated that he will not be voting for the Lockdown to run through March, because he is concerned for people’s mental health (among other things) due to the effects of the Lockdown.

Now he has a point; Lockdowns are not good for our mental health, people can feel isolated if they are on their own, parents are struggling with homeschooling, kids are missing out on the social and educational benefits of being at school, people are losing their livelihoods, and some people are having to work through the Lockdowns; I get it, but his argument seems to have a lack of true care about mental health.

The truth is that mental illness affects the other side of the coin as well, the people who have lost loved ones, people who fear spreading it to others.  Adults and children could pass the virus to a family member or friends, who in turn could die because of it; what would that do to their mental wellbeing?  NHS staff and carers may have to look after more sick people, and worst of all see more people die from the virus.

We also have the media who will continue to spread fear like butter whatever happens, giving endless speculation, and daily updates on the infection rates and the numbers of those who have died.

If that politician, and the other people out there using mental health to suit their argument, really care about mental wellbeing, then they should be demanding help and support for EVERYONE who is affected by the pandemic.

One of the causes of anxiety and depression is trauma, and this is what we need to understand when looking at mental health and the pandemic.  Trauma can come in various forms, we can experience it first hand, or it can be vicarious (which is where the media and social media comes into it), we don’t have to have experienced a trauma first hand for it to affect us.

The point I am making is that the trauma of the pandemic has the potential to affect everyone, the only difference is that certain things will affect people more than others, and people’s reactions will be different based on their own experience.

Has it had the same affect on everyone?  I personally don’t know anyone who has died from the virus.  I know plenty of people who have caught it and survived, but does that mean it’s not actually that bad, and that I take it less seriously?  Of course not (although some seem to think otherwise).  Lockdowns don’t make that much difference in my life (except the exercise restrictions), I struggle with social anxiety, and have done before covid-19 came around, so being isolated and not being around others is normal for me.

Maybe it’s a bit like a mental health disorder, you only truly understand it when it happens to you?

Mental illness has been an issue for decades, way before covid-19, and has probably affected more people (that’s speculation by the way).  People have taken their own lives during the pandemic, for various reasons, and I hate to see people picking and choosing stories just to fit their views.

Please don’t use mental health disorders as a way to try and bolster a one-sided argument and to make it look as though you care…..

If you really care about mental health then the big question you should be asking is what is being done to help EVERYONE who needs support.

Let’s also think about what we are writing and sharing; it’s fine to voice an opinion, but let’s do it in a calm, controlled way.  Stop spreading fear, hatred and anger.  Let’s all try to spread a bit more kindness and compassion.  I know it’s not easy, but the benefits will be much better.  

If you are struggling, then social media isn’t really the safest of places to vent or release your anger; you’re better to call a helpline and speak to someone who is trained to listen and who can help you find support if you need it.

Keep well, and keep safe.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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