The impact on the mental health of our country – Part II

Grandparents are missing their grandchildren

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 50 (Thursday, May 7 2020)

“NOW this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

So said wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill after Rommel’s mighty army were defeated in the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942.

At the time this was interpreted as the war moving into another stage after defeats in a number of battles.

Churchill is Boris Johnson’s hero and that “end of the beginning” speech might well have been suitable for the PM’s announcement in the House of Commons yesterday that some coronavirus lockdown measures might be eased as early as Monday as the fight against the pandemic was moving, albeit slowly, into the second stage.

But there was no Churchillian speech from Boris in doing so after a mild mauling from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, which was expected and probably overdue. Bo Jo did not fight back in his usual histrionic manner.

Boris’ statement caught most observers by surprise as they anticipated there would be no movement towards the “new normal” before the end of the month.

The Prime Minister, however, seems at last to have come to the conclusion that he has to get the country back to work without causing a second surge in the virus and hopefully appreciates that for the sake of the nation’s mental health, we have to have some positive news to cling to.

So let’s forget the politics on this 50th day of isolation and continue on the theme of the huge effect this contagion has had on how people are managing to cope in these unprecedented days.

There is no doubt that isolation has been the biggest challenge faced by this current generation, especially for those with young families living in cramped conditions in high density housing areas and with limited financial resources.

It’s impossible to estimate what long term effect this will have on the mental health of such families in the future, but the NHS will be needing much more funding after this disease is beaten.

The government had already signalled they were planning to invest more heavily in the NHS before the arrival of coronavirus, but they will have to go back to the drawing board when the current epidemic is free to be able to deal with those who will struggle to come to terms with the “new normal”

Yesterday I wrote about how greater interaction with family and friends is helping my household to cope with the current lockdown.

We are fortunate that our youngest, Francesca, has been able to move into an annexe so that we can continue working together. For her mum and me, it’s been a delight having her home again, but I suspect she is now counting the days when she can get back into her bijou flat again.

Our other two children, Darren and Zoe, live in London and Galway respectively and we have two lovely granddaughters. We have not seen any of them since Christmas and it may be many months before we do. I, like most other grandparents, can’t wait until I can hug them again. But thanks to the wonders of technology, we have actually seen more of them, albeit on a screen, than we would have done prior to the virus.

The boredom of lockdown has been eased greatly by taking part in the fantastic and hugely popular Monday night virtual quiz staged on Facebook by Neville and Sarah Causley, who run Causley Cabs. Participants join in from far and wide, not just to test their knowledge but to watch their hilarious half-time cabaret acts.

My elder daughter Zoe and her husband join in the quiz but, before they start, Barry gives us a cocktail master class via FaceTime, introducing us to a new cocktail every week. When the quiz is over, suitably refreshed, we chat for another hour or two.

We have extended the cocktail classes to a Friday night as well so our son Darren and his partner Jen can join in, having put the kids to bed, followed by a convivial hour of idle chat.

Casting the blues aside

None of this would have happened had it been for lockdown. The point I am making here is that we have made far more effort to interact with our close family and it’s helping us through this difficult period, casting aside the blues.

Most families out there are doing the same but perhaps we should spare a thought for broken families which, for whatever reason, are unable to do so.

I’ve never suffered greatly from depression, although, like all of us, I’ve experienced many difficult time especially in business. Depression is an evil disease and afflicts people from all walks of life.

Churchill suffered greatly from bouts of depression, which he referred to as his “black dog”, now a common expression. After being rejected by the nation in the first general election after the war, when he was cast into the wilderness, there was major fears among his family and staff that he would like his own life. He often spoke about it.

I used to get very morose when I was younger after organising an event, especially during my Regatta years. I always put it down to the adrenaline draining out of my body, but I quickly bounced back by starting to plan the next event.

There’s never been a better time to build bridges

We are a non-confrontational family but I know that’s not always the case. But if ever there was a time to build bridges with family and friends, this is it. Just pick up the phone. Those with whom you’ve lost touch are probably thinking “shall I do it?”  Swallow your pride and be the first to break the ice.

I’m lucky to have a brother and sister-in-law who live nearby and, more recently, one of my cousins and his wife moved to Lyme and we actually speak to each now much more often than we did. I hope that continues.

I’m also fortunate to have a close-knit group of friends, and some former colleagues, who are keeping in constant touch. They call to say hello but I know they are really checking to see I’m okay. That means something.

It enables us to recall happier days and there’s no doubt that nostalgia is coming back into fashion. You’ve only have to see what’s happening on Facebook, especially the Lyme Regis Nostalgia site, to see how people appreciate being reminded of what life used to be like.

Old photos always go down a storm when we publish them in LymeOnline and we are currently running a page in our digital edition of people having fun when they were younger. Remember those days?

And as we prepare to enter the “new normal”, here’s an appropriate quotation from I know not whom: “It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.” 

Woodmead Halls

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