Updated: Mar 3
It seems impossible to write about counselling without looking at the impact of Lockdown on our mental health. No doubt about it, Lockdown has raised levels of anxiety - in those of us who feel we are prone to it and those who have seldom experienced it. The call to remain alert, to be on the defensive, to come to the rescue of those at greater risk than ourselves, to save the NHS, have many of us running scared, through our streets and the supermarkets.
The fact that the media is unrelenting doesn’t help.
The fact that the media is unrelenting doesn’t help. Without a clear strategy, the voice of doom comes pouring into our homes by the second. We are stuck in limbo, eager for numbers to fall, for guidelines to change, for a return to ‘normal’, which, we’re told, is unlikely to be as it was before.
If we're employed, we are anxious about our work, whether or not we are working from home. Many of us have a reduced income or none at all. We’re wondering if and how we are going to survive.
As parents we are concerned about the welfare and the future of our children. Some of us
may be struggling with
home education and worrying over the risks involved in returning our children to school.
We may be questioning whether we’re offering the right support and care to relatives, friends and neighbours. We may resent being ordered to stay at home without contact with another soul.
We have been forced to change our way of being.
As a society we have been forced to change our way of being. We have battened down the hatches and are trying to abide by a new etiquette which says that buying more than a ‘fair’ quantity of toilet roll, antiviral products, baked beans or eggs is indicative of a particular attitude.
If we're not already utilizing all forms of digital communication to keep the wolf of isolation from our door and boredom at bay, then we must 'get with it'. And if we don’t have the means or the aptitude for electronic relating? Well, then we're accused of being out-of-touch whilst forced to live without touch.
Numbers attending traditional ceremonies are reduced. Extended families are unable to meet. Parents are separated from children, grandparents from grandchildren.
And intimacy? How is this possible when we must remain apart? At best we feel challenged. Without hope we feel thwarted.
All inequalities are magnified.
Separated by a 2-metre distance and afraid of touch, we are living with heightened anxiety. Distancing is tearing us asunder and all inequalities are magnified. And whilst the media hype up the ‘new normal and the ‘new economy’, some of us are asking, 'Does life have to be this way?'
It's going to take time to heal from the social implications of COVID-19 - the divided families, loneliness and loss. If you feel the need to seek counselling help, why wait to begin?
Updated: Mar 3
I've recently been thinking about the days before lockdown, when socialising face-to-face was ‘the norm’. Some new acquaintances would ask: ‘What do you do?’ I noticed how often I was misheard when I replied: ‘I’m a counsellor’, even on repetition. When I succeeded in making myself heard, I’d be met with one of four responses: curiosity, enthusiasm, a request for advice or simply nothing at all – a non-response.
It was the non-response that intrigued me.
It seems that some people flounder at the mention of counselling. They simply don’t know how to respond.
From where I stand, counselling doesn’t appear to be understood as readily as some helping professions – the medical profession or teaching, for example. Whilst there are many documentaries and popular TV shows about A&E departments, GPs, midwives, veterinarians, vicarages or parish priests, and schools, it’s rare to see a programme about the day-to-day routine of a psychotherapist. Hospitals and schools are familiar to most of us but the same cannot be said of counselling practice rooms.
We are forced to resign ourselves to the limitations of privacy and confidentiality within medicine. Whilst it may not feel appropriate to openly discuss a recent medical procedure in public, we allow it to happen, at our GP or hospital reception. And some of us have no qualms about sharing such confidential information with family or acquaintances. But our approach to counselling is quite different. We keep this close to our chests. Understandably so, for what could be more personal than our innermost thoughts and feelings?
Whenever we speak with a counsellor, we do so in private and in confidence.
Whenever we speak with a counsellor, we do so in private and in confidence. Privacy and confidentiality being vital to the counselling relationship, in helping to build trust and establish an alliance that allows us to freely explore difficulties, without judgement, so that we can come to our own conclusions and initiate change.
Perhaps the need for privacy and confidentiality in counselling creates an air of mystery. But what if the non-response or the inclination to avoid discussing counselling is more about the stigma surrounding mental health? How then do we get past this?
We are now half-way through Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. The Mental Health Awareness Foundation has been organising events to mark UK Mental Health Awareness Week since 2001, to raise awareness about mental health and associated difficulties. Children’s Mental Health Week took place earlier in the year from 3rd to 9th of February. World Suicide Prevention Day is 10th of September. World Mental Health Day is 10th October.
So let’s keep responding
It seems that we are talking about mental health more than ever before. So let’s keep responding. Let’s share our knowledge and experiences, if we can, so that we can all have a better understanding of how counselling works, and how to access help when we need it.
The following links may be helpful:
Updated: Mar 3
In response to COVID-19 we are instructed not to visit medical centres; we are to call or email for advice. However, it would appear that, whilst we focus on the pandemic, our reporting of other medical issues to the NHS is in decline. In response to this. messages are being sent from doctors' surgeries and via the media; we're being encouraged not to ignore or to put off seeking medical advice for serious symptoms.
Whether the decline is because we feel COVID-19 is a priority and therefore don't want to take up NHS resources or because we are anxious that our condition may require hospital admission, and we fear that this will put us at risk, is unclear.
To what extent these concerns are based in reality is debatable. But something that stands out from all of this is the day-to-day anxiety we are all experiencing, which is different for each of us and has an impact on our well-being, at whatever level.
Something that stands out from all of this is the day-to-day anxiety we are all experiencing, which is different for each of us and has an impact on our well-being, at whatever level.
Just how many of us are ignoring signs that we need to attend to our mental health or put off seeking help during the pandemic?
Common thoughts may be:
No-one can see a counsellor face-to-face right now. I'll wait until this is all over.
Telephone and online counselling is what's on offer now. I'd prefer face-to-face.
What's the point of me seeking counselling for this? This is the new normal.
With everything's that happened, how can I afford counselling?
If it wasn't for the pandemic I think I'd be okay.
These are all valid thoughts and it is, of course, up to you whether or not you seek counselling. But take care that you're not allowing your mental health to become secondary. And remember, you may be able to find answers to the questions you're asking yourself by contacting a counsellor and making enquiries.
The following link and video may also be of help: