Throughout these challenging times our mental health is being affected more than ever, and it’s important to realise we’re not alone and that help is out there. As part of mental health awareness week The Brewery has reached out to Dr. Melvyn Adjei, a GP Registrar, who works at one of the busiest GP surgeries in Tower Hamlets, East London. He has kindly answered some questions to help us shine a light on mental health and how we can help those who are experiencing issues.
What is mental Health?
Mental health is essentially a state of psychological well-being. It’s about how people think, feel and behave. Common mental health problems include stress, anxiety and depression and it’s exceedingly common, much more than people realise. In the UK approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year! Whilst being seen as primarily psychological, your mental health can have a big impact on physical processes too including concentration, appetite, sleep and much more.
Can you tell us some of the ways in which you are noticing that Coronavirus is affecting people’s mental health?
In a nutshell, a lot! We are noticing depression and anxiety in particular are on the rise, largely due to the effects of lockdown. I work in Tower Hamlets in East London where there are lots of large families trapped in very small apartments for most of the day, often with school aged children stuck at home. Additionally, usual stress relievers for most of us including sports, entertainment and socialising are non-existent. On top of this there is huge uncertainty for people in their jobs, careers and businesses. Hospitality industry has certainly been hugely affected by the pandemic and the uncertainty of the situation is affecting the mental wellbeing of individuals. All these things are what we call ‘social stressors’ and a perfect recipe for a mental health crisis.
What are the most useful strategies that you would recommend for people who are struggling at this time?
I think one of the main things to remember is that you are NOT alone. Just a quick look at the stats mentioned before show us that even if many of us aren’t talking about it as much as we should, mental health is affecting almost everyone in some way shape or form at some point in our lives. It’s OK to be struggling.
Secondly I think that for those of us who do have a strong network around us, be that partners, relatives, friends….that can be a fantastic source of help. I often hear a lot of my patient’s say, ‘Oh I don’t want to burden them.’ I think most people would be desperate to know if a loved one was struggling and would do anything they could to help. I’m fairly certain I don’t know a single person who would feel it be a ‘burden’ to help a loved one going through a difficult time. I know for sure I would want to know if somebody I knew needed me and it’s so important to remember that if you’re going through a difficult time.
Thirdly, I would always encourage seeking professional help where possible, especially when things are becoming unmanageable, and your mental health is starting to take its toll on relationships, work life and the like. There are lots of really useful resources online created and run by professionals including many helpful mental health apps on the NHS website. Your GP is also a great first point of contact and will be more than happy hear from you. We manage people who are struggling with their mental health every single day, we aren’t too busy, you are important and we do want to help!
If we know somebody who is struggling with their mental health how can we help them?
That’s a very useful question in these times. There’s lots of things but I’ll try and name a few! My advice would start with, if you suspect, ask the question. It sounds obvious but with all the distractions of life and the hubbub of social media it is easy to assume someone is managing fine when they actually might be drowning. Reach out to people.
Next, I would encourage that person to seek help if you think they need it. Regularly patients come to me and say, ‘My partner encouraged me to call,’ or ‘my friend told me I need help.’ Each one of us can be that push in the right direction that a person might need.
Last but not least, be patient! I think so often it’s easy to think or say, someone should be doing this, or that, you should stop drinking, start going for daily jog, speak to a friend, this that and the other! It’s important to remember that often, particularly with depression part of the illness process is that almost all ones energy can be focused on how badly they feel and their negative thoughts. After all the energy spent on that, it can be so very difficult to find the energy and motivation to do all the things that we all know can be so helpful. Imagine how you might feel after your longest most arduous day at work and imagine feeling like that most of the time. Now you can imagine how hard it would be to call that friend, go for that jog or cook that healthy nutritious meal.
Any final thoughts?
Reach out to each other, be kind to one another and remember that help is out there and you are most certainly not alone!