Being "stuck" at home for the past (almost) 7 weeks with Covid-19 restrictions has been a blessing in disguise - and a double edged sword.
On the one side, I have become closer to my kids and they have benefited immensely from not having the extra added pressures of modern day schooling (seriously, back in the 90's we didn't do half the stuff they're doing now in primary school and I'm pretty sure that the majority of us have turned out ok and have made our own unique marks on the world without it all lol), have benefited from me not having to rush around and get them ready to go to school so I could go and meet with clients and then get back in time to pick them up, have benefited from being able to rest and relax and do the things that they like at home when they need to instead of being forced to sit still and learn, they have watched as one of our chickens hatched out eggs, and have been watching the little balls of fluff grow and develop, they have learned how to FaceTime with distant friends and family (and so have I!)... And I have benefited by having time to reflect, to look back at what I have achieved with my life so far and to really look forward at the direction that I want my life, and my business, to go in.
On the other side, we've had the extra pressures of doing schooling at home (I said many years ago that I wasn't cut out to homeschool my kids, that I didn't have the patience for it - and I was right, I don't have the patience for it and I am immensely grateful that my kids are smart enough, and clued in enough too, to be able to do their work without much input or corrections from me which helps to reduce my overall stress-load).
We have all been around each other for far too long, confined mostly in a relatively small area (house and backyard), unable to just jump in the car and go wherever we want on days off to let off steam and explore and forget about the "work week".
I have missed working with my clients, missed teaching rebozo classes and talking pregnancy and birth.
I have missed the freedom of having 6 hours to myself to do what I want, whether that's work or relaxation, every weekday while the kids are at school.
AND my mental health HAS suffered without those 6 hours for me each weekday too, they have been a big part of my keeping healthy mentally, and I have had an emotional meltdown from the stress of trying to do everything and be everything that my kids need 24/7 while my husband is still, thankfully, working outside the home - and I think that this particular problem applies to every family worldwide too.
Rather than Covid-19 being the biggest issue that we’ll be facing in our future, our mental health will be.
Here in Australia our mental health system was already overwhelmed and problematic prior to the advent of Covid-19, and after Covid-19 it will be even more overwhelmed with all the extra people and families that will require mental health assistance in some form from the side effects of forced social isolation that we have had to endure in order to keep our most vulnerable safe from this awful virus.
Humans are, naturally, social beings, and not being able to exercise the physical side of the social aspect of ourselves has a big negative impact on our mental health. We can utilise the tool that is the internet, the tool that is phones, the tool that is writing, but they are only poor imitations of the real thing, the in person socialisation including touch, sound and smell, that our minds and bodies normally crave.
I have already been seeing the side effects online.
In many of the mothers groups on Facebook that I am a member of there is now at least one post every single day about how someone is struggling, how they are feeling depressed, alone, isolated, frustrated, so overwhelmingly sad. I have also seen far more of these posts in the ADHD support groups (my oldest child has ADHD and sensory processing disorder) where it is the norm for us extra needs parents to vent about our children amongst others who know and understand what we are going through when Covid-19 isn’t affecting our lives – many of the parents of extra needs children were already struggling BEFORE Covid-19, they are struggling even more NOW.
Some of my friends, the ones who I have always admired for how strong, capable and amazing they are, are struggling now as well, and I am sure that many more of them are too but aren’t sharing their feelings publicly.
We have new mothers who birthed with only one support person, if they were even permitted to have someone of their choice there in the birthing room with them, and they are then going home after birth with a newborn and having to spend those first weeks or months mostly on their own with no or very little extended (meaning outside of their immediate family unit comprised of themselves, their partner if they have one and their child or children) family support, no in-person access to their social supports like friends and acquaintances, no mothers groups, not being able to just get out and about and spend a decent amount of time out of the house somewhere with other people so they don’t have to feel so alone and isolated in their new role as the mother of a newborn...
We are currently living through one pandemic, trying to protect our society’s most vulnerable people from an awful virus, but we aren’t talking enough about the pandemic that we are going to be faced with after the virus is no longer affecting us in pandemic proportions – the worsening of the mental health pandemic that we have been fighting a seemingly losing battle against ever since our mental health, and the importance of it, was first recognised as a field or discipline by the World Health Organisation in 1946 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2408392/).
We seem to have forgotten the mental health pandemic in our fear and haste to stop the viral one, and many are currently suffering in silence because of it.
We need to talk about mental health – more so now than at any other time in recent history.
We need to talk about ways to improve it, or at the very least to prevent it from getting worse, within the limitations that we are currently bound by while we protect our immuno-compromised and at-risk groups.
We need to do more than just share the BeyondBlue and LifeLine phone numbers and PANDA handouts – they, quite simply, ARE NOT ENOUGH.
We need to be open and honest about how we are feeling and work together to problem solve ways to help, to improve, to prevent our mental health from reaching that point where we have no hope that things will get better, while still being mindful of those who need to be protected.
We NEED to talk MORE about mental health.