21 May 2020, The Tablet

Ending the stigma

Post-lockdown mental health


The coronavirus lockdown has coincided with a welcome change in the public perception of mental illness. This has in turn highlighted the likelihood that underneath the coronavirus pandemic lies a hidden psychiatric one, which remains largely untreated. Social distancing, isolation, and the general government message to people to “stay at home” where possible have neutralised one of society’s main defences against mental ill-health, namely the influence of other people. Being part of a group, whether in the family, the parish, the local neighbourhood or the workplace, provides therapeutic reassurance and support.

Relationships are an essential part of being human, and having to conduct them at a distance is bound to be detrimental. Social media alternatives fall some way short of providing an adequate substitute when a supportive touch on the hand or arm round the shoulder is no longer possible. The lockdown itself has demonstrated how normal everyday activities that people have always taken for granted contribute to maintaining personal wellbeing. Hugs matter.

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