“Mental illness turns people inwards…It keeps us forever trapped by the pain of our own minds.” – Nathan Filer
This quote perfectly outlines my argument: People with mental health issues can feel the way people are feeling now, every day. We can all agree that the increase in awareness of rising stress levels and feeling lonely is a great outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for people that feel like this on the daily, the articles provided are simply relaying information we already know. In the same way that a broken leg means you can’t walk up the stairs, when someone is facing a mental health issue, their brain decides they can’t leave the house, or go to that party, or even go to work. During this global health crisis, people have been unable to leave the house or see their family, and many are unemployed – this will ultimately affect our mental health, even if you’ve never faced anything like it before.
Personally, I like to believe I have been training for self-isolation for at least five years now. Suffering from a generalised anxiety disorder, most of my time outside the house was at school, and apart from that I stayed at home. People struggling with anxiety often find it extremely difficult to leave the house, or to do basic things such as take a shower or eat breakfast so without the motivation of going to school, I found that I was slipping back into those anxiety-fuelled slumps much quicker. My family members are experiencing the same issues – my dad has found that the lines between work and home have become so blurred that it’s indistinguishable, sometimes working until eleven o’clock at night; and my mum has taken to writing lists in order to keep motivated. Together as a family we try to stick to a routine so that life can seem almost-normal: 4pm is always cup-of-tea-time, and the daily goals we set for ourselves are body care, achievement, socialising, and entertainment. By creating a routine for ourselves, it keeps us going – otherwise we would sit in our pyjamas all day.
Interestingly, there has been a call for people to stay motivated and try to stick to their routine as much as possible, Haley Nahman for The Cut writes that “chores [have] become a litmus test for [her]…well-being.” In her article Self-Isolation Is a Recipe for Depression she argues, with evidence from Lina Perl (a clinical psychologist) that “the mandate to self-isolate functions as much like a depression trigger as it does a necessary public-health measure,” and when this is paired with “society’s general reluctance to emphasise mental health with the moral imperative that we prioritise physical health,” we are bound to feel alone and helpless. As I said earlier, my family are finding it useful to stick to a routine therefore I can relate to the fact that bed-making will ultimately lead to a productive day.
My final question is this: Will the result of this forced self-isolation period be that people are more empathetic towards individuals with mental health issues? I would like to believe that it will evoke some sort of social revolution in the way that society views mental health but my pessimistic nature tells me that it will never happen. So instead of a social revolution, let’s scale it back a bit: To people who haven’t suffered from mental health issues, you have now had a glimpse into the mind of someone who does suffer (a lot of the time) – please take a minute to sit with your thoughts and then together, maybe we can start to break down the stigma against mental health even further.