How are you? A question asked dozens of times a day in one form or another. Indeed, in the UK especially “Are you alright?” is used interchangeably with “hello”. How often, though, do we mean it? How often do we genuinely want to know how someone is feeling and when we are asked the question ourselves, do we ever actually think that an honest and frank answer beyond “yeah, you?” is expected or necessary?
In recent years, particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown measures, mental health has quite rightly been taken more seriously. Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event supposed to ensure that people are mindful of the difficulties that others may be going through – and indeed, that they may at some point go through themselves. According to mental health charity MIND approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. While these issues vary in severity, suicide is increasing alarmingly among children and is the most common cause of death in the country for men aged 20-49. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that this is also a demographic that has historically been taught that showing emotion is tantamount to weakness.
Speaking out is strength. Kindness is strength. Doing what is necessary to get yourself or somebody else to tomorrow is strength. There may be times in your life when things are immeasurably hard, but those times will not last forever. Things can and will always get better so long as you make sure you are there to see it. If you are lucky enough to not go through this sort of feeling, then it is still important to be acutely aware that someone you know likely will. Though not always easy, being kind should be a priority. Your words and actions can have a profound impact on others, so it is our collective responsibility to make that impact as positive as possible.
During these stressful and unprecedented times, it is as important as ever to look after yourself and others. Check on your loved ones. Let them know that you care. If you are struggling, take solace in whatever helps, whether that takes the form of music, exercise, reading, or prescribed medication. Take small steps to help yourself; even it is something as simple as mustering all of your strength and motivation to get into the shower that day. Most importantly, reach out. To a friend, a colleague, a doctor. Do not fool yourself that there is some sort of glory in suffering alone. You either come out the other side of these dark patches or you don’t, and there are no bonus points available for doing it without support.