suffering

Mental Health and the Global Pandemic

Dear Readers:

I understand that a lot of you may be struggling right now, especially as rumours of a 6th wave of the pandemic is circulating. I have a few things to say about that, but first I want to encourage anyone reading to get all three of their vaccinations, and a fourth if they are able. The vaccine isn’t a solid shield of armour that will keep all disease away, but it is the best prevention we have from serious illness. Studies are showing that most of the people who are being hospitalized now or dying from the illness have not been fully vaccinated. I want to emphasize though that the vaccine is not perfect. There are people who will have side effects and problems with the vaccine, but until the world can get on a program where everyone gets vaccinated, Covid-19 is going to keep having more and more waves and there will keep on being more and more deaths.

The pandemic is a serious issue for anyone with a mental health problem. It is very hard to stay inside and deal with isolation, boredom and loneliness. What I am hoping is that I can convince people who are isolating to take some time to get out and walk in a place that isn’t crowded with people. That is the first, most basic step. Then comes the writing. If you are reading this, I will assume you are able to write. One of the best things you can do is to keep a journal. Write down your thoughts, your feelings. Pretend as though you are sharing your life with someone very close to you, and of course, keep this journal in a safe place. One of the cool things about keeping a journal is that you can use it for wellness, and you can also save ideas and project plans that you want to keep for future use.

The next thing I have to suggest also has to do with writing. Write personal emails to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. Make it a daily routine. Along with giving friends a quick call or giving friends a long phone call, write to people you once knew perhaps by looking them up online or on Facebook.

One of the things I want to emphasize is that a major time of growth for me came when I heard the Astronaut Chris Hadfield say that he started to really grow as a person when he realized that everyone, all the people you see, all the people you know, are struggling. Many people may see Chris Hadfield as a person without problems, but can you imagine the countless hours of preparation and hard work he had to put in to twice serve on board the International Space Station? Some days he would spend 6 hours underwater in a pool training to work in zero gravity in a mock space suit and then go home to spend countless hours studying every possible glitch, every system, every experiment that he had to take on as an astronaut. Now look at anyone and try to empathize with them. Think of a homeless person and how hard it is for them, even just to use a bathroom. Few businesses will let them use theirs without buying something, public bathrooms (in Edmonton) are few and far between, and they have to find food and shelter all over each day. People we may know well, who we may have grown up with, could have struggles with their ageing parents (as I do) and though they have a family, they may have to face a lot of things by themselves.

All this is well and good, but how it relates to mental illness is that there are ways for us to become accustomed to our illnesses and reach a potential that we once thought impossible. I never thought I would have nice things like a computer and a stereo to enjoy my time as I wrote, but with hard work, saving and constantly seeking opportunities to earn despite my crippling depression and occasional psychosis.

So that is my message to you Dear Readers. Consider others and find ways to get through things hour by hour, day by day. And as a last note, when you look at others and understand they are struggling, remember that by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask we are not just protecting ourselves and shortening the time the world will have to fight Covid-19, we are protecting others.

Actually, that is not my last comment. One of the things I like to talk about applies here. Above all things, get yourself plugged into a community. A community can be anything. It can be the youth group of your church, it can be the people who run your community newspaper. Try not to get too involved with groups that are based on negative things, like illicit drugs, alcohol or gambling. Remember there are 12-step groups to help you deal with these things that can be a community as well. When you find that connection, you will soon learn that simply by participating in worthwhile activities (and don’t forget support agencies like for example the Schizophrenia Society) you will soon be accepted for who you are, not the illness you have. I understand it can be really hard at first, but it is so worth the effort. One of the communities I used to be a part of was simply people who went early to the pool. I still have some friends from that time and I want to go back to doing that as soon as it is possible.

As yet another last note, please, if you smoke, do your best to quit. I would like to talk more about this, but I don’t have all the time I need. Try cutting down for a few weeks, and take the extra money and put it aside to buy patches and nicotine gum. You will be thankful that you tried your best, and you will find you have more money and more people want to be around you. It will even be easier to keep a cleaner home.

Best wishes everyone, I look forward to your comments!