Mental Health Awareness Week began this morning in the UK, and takes on an especially important significance due to COVID-19 pandemic, and its implications on mental health. For all of us!
The recent WHO Policy Brief released on the 13th May, highlighted the major increase in mental distress caused by the pandemic across the world. These reflect not only the fears of becoming infected by the virus, but also, for many, the uncertainty of our work and livelihoods, and the safety of our families, and especially elderly relatives, distanced by the lockdown. Isolation, changing work behaviours, and heavy workloads related to the pandemic, and coupled often with family responsibilities, childcare and household concerns, are increasing stress, anxiety and depression across the globe at alarming rates.
For health care workers and first responders especially, these aspects are significantly higher, and in China and Canada, research during the pandemic has revealed anxiety and depression rates at approximately 45% and 50% respectively.
Women and children are also disproportionately affected. The WHO report cites a study from India that found that stress levels were significantly higher for women, at 66%, then for men at 34%. For children, the report cites a lockdown study from Italy and Spain, in which parents have reported nervousness in their children at 39%, and lack of concentration at 77%, highlighting the potential immediate and longer-term effects on them as the pandemic continues.
Therefore, managing our stress, and looking after our mental wellbeing is critical in the current environment of uncertainty and ambiguity in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurturing good mental health now can have both an immediate and longer-term benefit, in addressing how we may be feeling now, and building resilience for the future.
In particular, as Mental Health Awareness Week begins, and as key publications, online events, and resources are rolled out across many sectors, and workplaces provide links to materials and services, the Being Inside initiative aims to provide a more accessible way to experience mindfulness over the coming weeks and months.
From this week, the sessions are now more flexible, providing half hour slots (which also provide the option for staying for the follow-on session, for those wishing to stay for a longer hourly session), and also 45 minute afternoon slots also. In addition, we will also be introducing a basic step-by-step 'Introduction to Mindfulness' workshop every week, providing an opportunity for beginners, and groups to gently become familiar with what mindfulness is, and the benefits for mental health.
Indeed, through over 40 years of scientific study and research, mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression, and increase mental wellbeing and resilience, and in so doing, build a calmer, more self-aware and skilful approach to meeting our challenges.
And in the face of the ongoing pandemic, and as Mental Health Awareness Week begins, mindfulness is now becoming even more prominent in the approach promoted and provided by healthcare professionals, psychologists, and our wellbeing leads across all sectors.
With the Being Inside initiative, we would like to provide you the opportunity to sample, experience, and build the practice for yourselves, and see how this simple age-old practice can best support you through this uncertain time.
We look forward to seeing you online.
Stay safe and well...