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Anthony Bernard, Highlighting the Needy, writes for the Journal.

We usually take mental health for granted unless there are special problems; but now we all do have problems, if only "cabin fever".

Many years ago I recall a weekend training session for volunteers about mental problems - driving home I realised that I had the basic symptoms of every category described, which worried me.

But then I realised that having mild symptoms of everything in proportion was okay.

Those working in hospitals, doctors nurses and support staff in combat with the virus, will surely have Traumatic Stress. It is too soon to call it PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) because it is not yet 'post' traumatic stress - the pressure is still on.

Working in or near critical care makes for direct contact care and support for the patient - to lose any patient must be overwhelming; to go back and start over with the next patient is beyond anything I could imagine.

Twenty nine years ago Anne and I lost our eldest son and daughter-in-law in an horrific car accident; it was two months before my mind could focus on anything else, and even then only after a week in which I obsessed on something else.

Friends who said 'I know how you feel' were instantly deleted from our Christmas list. No-one knows how anyone else feels.

It was 15 years before I could discuss the subject in a balanced way, without getting into a voluble description.

That's my story; it carries the lesson that we never know what mental burdens other people may be carrying.

The coronavirus makes this topical, but all the other traumas of life carry on as well. (For those who know me, Anne died 12 years ago)

When struggling in our own minds it is important to have people we can call on who can help us.

It may be important to keep helping others in some way when we are really struggling, perhaps only in very small ways.

This prevents us from becoming too introspective and self-focused.

When we help others this can be uplifting for us, whatever we might be going through ourselves.

Mental struggles are not something to be ashamed about.

When we cannot cope with a situation, or just the everyday pressures of life, we can feel inadequate and inferior to others who seem to be coping better.

We never know how others truly feel. An outwardly strong and confident person might have inner struggles we could never imagine - just as the world divides into extroverts who explain well and introverts who may have the actual answers.

There are many volunteer support groups as well as NHS mental health professionals accessible through GP practices. However, the best support group may well be the existing circle of friends available by phone or internet - if only to agree that we are all quite sane, but in the same predicament.

My father told the story of a person at a mental health home dragging his wheel barrow around upside down.

He explained that when he wheeled it right way up, people kept putting things in it and telling him where to go.

Whatever his diagnosis, he was not stupid.

Among charities listed on the NHS website, The Quiet Mind Centre based in Exmouth is able to offer counselling, healing and other complementary therapies in return for a small donation.

To quote from their website, they are 'dedicated to providing therapies to people suffering from a physical, emotional or stress related health problem or bereavement, and, who are on some form of a benefit or low income'. For more, call 01395 270070.

All of this must sound very familiar right now to so many people, locked down with cabin fever, home schooled kids, depressed partners, furloughed jobs etc

Be nice to everyone you meet - you can't tell how close they may be to blowing a gasket.


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