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To have an Explosion in Mental Health Issues?

Written by Claire Dunkley from Cluzie Clinic

What has 2020 brought us?

For most people 2020 is a year they’d rather forget… or at the least, rewind and reset and start again.  With a global pandemic dominating the landscape, people have been exposed to mass fear in relation to getting a virus that has dominated our TV channels, radio stations, newspapers etc. Daily statistics are discussed around death rates, infection rates and testing results. Authoritarian dictatorship has influenced people’s experience of 2020 with lockdowns, segregations, quarantines, isolation, minimising companionship, extreme job loss and victimisation. With global fear at its highest for this generation, has the ‘perfect storm’ for an explosion in mental health issues been created before our very eyes?

Mental health in review

Previously, the world of exactly what ‘mental health’ meant  was somewhat misunderstood. Organisations did not get it, the impact on lives and livelihoods was not clear, people made jokes about it, some people avoided it altogether, others were fearful of ever discussing it and people with any sort of mental health issue felt largely misunderstood.

By the start of 2020, understanding about what constitutes a mental health issue and how to influence it, had vastly improved – and that’s a very good thing. Organisations have built world-class training programs for all staff to become aware of bullying, victimisation, isolation and how all these things affect the individual personally and the organisation more broadly. Society views anything related to mental health very differently from their past views because courageous sporting superstars like Tayla Harris,  Eddie Betts and Adam Goodes from the AFL share their experience of cyber bullying and the impact it has on them. Even in recent times, the way Anthony Seibold from the Brisbane Broncos has called out the bullies has caused many to sit up and take stock. The world is changing.

Statistics demonstrate that with 2020 upon us, and anxiety, depression and suicide rates going up and up, Australia is pivoting again to bring into sharper focus exactly what can be done to help both inside and outside the workplace. Previously, business meetings attended in-person had a get straight down to business approach, now, the start of the online meeting is more likely to begin with more human connection and the question “How are you feeling?” – a massive 360 as the responses are actually waited for and listened to.

The wheel of life impacts

There are many tools available to help monitor and improve one’s mental health.  If you are a visual person (which 65% of us are), a powerful visual tool to monitor how satisfied you are with different aspects of your life is, The Wheel of Life. Firstly, you score 0-10 how satisfied you are currently in each of the eight quadrants of your life. Secondly, you score 0-10 how much satisfaction you would like in this area of your life right now – it’s a good idea to use different colours for each of these ratings. The area of life that shows the largest gap between the first score and the second score is where the best investment in time, focus and attention should go to give you the greatest shift. See an example Wheel of Life tool below.

When we think about the impact a global pandemic and severe lockdown has on these eight areas, it creates more rationale that we are brewing the perfect storm. Let’s break it down considering this perspective, in particular taking into account the experience of Melbourne folk, and look at each aspect of the wheel in turn.

Family and Friends: in person, friend catch-ups have been banned,  Family catch-ups are heavily restricted if possible at all. When we tie this into the Six Human Needs > Love and Connection, the ‘connection’ bucket is feeling very empty. Without being able to hug, enjoy, laugh and be thrilled with what humanity is all about with your friends and family, the impact to mental wellness is profound.

Significant Other / Romance: being locked in with your significant other…..for some people it’s BLISS, for others, misery. So your ranking of this aspect of life on the wheel will really depend on your situation. For those who are yet to find a significant other, finding romance in the middle of lockdown is highly difficult and limited to 1hr per day in a 5km radius = GOOD LUCK! Of course, there is still the online action, but it is so different when you are able to take things to the next level and meet in person. For people looking for romance, the impact of lockdown is huge for their life satisfaction levels.

Fun and Recreation: well if you are an online gamer, movie buff or artist, lockdown is bliss. If anything outdoors or outside of your home is where you get your fun and recreation, then lockdown sucks and your mental health will probably be less than optimal. From a Six Human Needs > Variety perspective, this need is highly impacted.

Health: the global pandemic focus on death, virus and isolation is infiltrating almost all media that is publicly available. This constant fear has a HUGE impact on health whether it is conscious or not. It doesn’t even matter if you have the virus, as at the hint of a sniffle, in for a test and the stress/worry associated with “what if I have it?” begins. In addition, people’s healthy exercise and food routines are all messed up. If in lockdown Dan Murphy’s has become your best outing, then the impact of alcohol, or other substances, will be impacting your health and mental health as well. When we consider the Six Human Needs > Certainty lens, there is no certainty at the moment as to when lockdown or global pandemic will end. This base need of certainty is not being met.

Money: money is a HUGE factor right now with job losses through the roof, investments going bust, living expenses going up etc. Whilst there is the current buffer support with JobSeeker and JobKeeper, once they cease, the impact to peoples’ financial wellbeing will be severe. This area impacts the foundational Six Human Need > Certainty as well. The pressure associated with not knowing if you can support your family or self financially in the current environment is HUGE.

Personal Growth: this could be influenced either way in lockdown as some people may now have time to do that online course they have been putting off for years because they did not have enough time OR negatively as people can no longer can attend the in person self-improvement sessions that light up their life. Definite correlation to the Six Human Need > Learning and Growth.

Physical Environment: being restricted to your home space (especially if it is an inner city, one bedroom, 50m2 apartment block) can have a huge impact on your mental health and satisfaction levels. The correlation to Six Human Need > Variety is clear.

Career: job losses are high, promotions are low, organisations are not hiring – the combination of which enables a perfect storm of crappy career progression whilst in lockdown. The Six Human Needs > Significance AND Contribution are impacted in this quadrant.

What can we do?

We know mental health wellbeing is improved through: exercise, nature, sunshine, good food, socialisation and connection. However, with lockdown, all of these are impacted severely. So, whilst it sounds colloquial and perhaps a little too ‘Mary Poppins’ for some, we have to make the most of what life has thrown at us.

  • Exercise: subscribe to an online exercise mentor or hit up You Tube to find something that floats your boat
  • Food: plan and prepare nutritious food and change the focus of what you can’t do to a newly focused, amazing habit to enjoy with the family.
  • Nature: prioritise your hour of power outside and get amongst the closest nature.  Go barefoot if you can and absorb the earth’s energy into your system.
  • Sunshine: soak up some vitamin D rays however you can make it happen.
  • Socialisation: utilise online meeting platforms to stay connected with friends and family. Book them into the schedule so that they are unmissable.
  • Connection: hug whoever you are allowed to hug and get the oxytocin rush.

In these crazy times, if you are surviving and are mentally strong, it is your DUTY to take responsibility and check in with others to see “How are they really doing?”

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