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Mental Health Awareness Week May 18th – 24th: ‘This is for all of us’

Blog by Ruth Allen, CEO BASW

This week is mental health awareness week.  Whether or not you have used mental health services or have previously needed to focus on your own mental health, we can all use this week as a reminder to reflect on how we are, how we feel and how we keep ourselves mentally and emotionally well through this time.  We will be posting information, ideas and reflections throughout the week on the website, bulletins and social media.

A small but important conversation helped me reflect on my own mental wellbeing this week. I had a telephone call with Gaia*, someone I work with on a range of mental health initiatives.  She is an expert by experience of social work and mental health services.

We had both been in a recent zoom call with a group of longstanding colleagues, friends and ‘co-conspirators’ – our first contact as a group since lockdown. 

On the telephone call, Gaia and I found out we had had a common experience of feeling tearful and emotional after that zoom – seeing everyone for the first time in weeks, knowing we were scattered  across the country, all so pleased to be together and making the effort to connect.

Gaia and I talked of the rollercoaster of emotions raised by living in lockdown, whether in isolation or with others, whether going out to work or staying in, whether feeling protected at this time or exposed and fearful. It’s important to remind ourselves that our emotions, minds and bodies are coping with extraordinary changes right now, even as many of us are living reduced and restricted lives. Some days it feels ok, some days not so much. We show great strength just by hanging on.

We talked of how tears are healthy and healing. They show up unexpectedly –  not just after a trauma, but also when connections to other people are restored and you realise what you have been missing. Tears can connect us, bodily and emotionally, with meaning and being human.

Our telephone conversation was short, but it a meant a lot. In a simple way it helped me understand some of my emotional reactions to lockdown and reminded me of the fundamental idea that emotional expression can start a process of recovery and healing.

I am struck by some of the comments from social workers in our relaunched survey - Social work during Coronavirus (COVID-19. In response to our new question about ‘what valuable professional lessons have you learnt’, many social workers point to realising more than ever the need to look after their own wellbeing, value camaraderie and connection with colleagues, with the hope that self-care for social workers will have the same attention in the long term as it has now.

Take care all.

 

*Not her real name

Look out for a new format of Ruth's online vlog  - which will go from solo to a duet!

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