• PARLIAMENT NEWS

MENTAL HEALTH AFTER COVID-19

BY DAME TESSY ANTONY DE NASSAU


The global COVID 19 pandemic has affected all our lives in some way or another. One thing that finally was highlighted during this pandemic in a significant way was the global health crisis and discussions around mental health which have fuelled the media outlets, and company HR departments. So much so that it was merely impossible at times to book a psychologist. Psychologists were overwhelmed with the demand and were unable to allocate time for each person’s mental health needs. What does that tell us? It tells us that mental health, as all other health matters are not only a personal matter but also a matter for society and our leadership. We are still lacking policies and laws that inform, protect, and cater to people’s needs when it comes to mental health. A topic which was frowned upon for centuries, dismissed as unimportant or quite frankly not a matter for the public.This has all changed now. One does not need to look far to find supporting evidence on google around this topic. According to Mind.org, 1 out of 6 people in the UK will experience mental health issues a year in the UK. Mentalhealth.org.uk goes further by stating that “Nearly two-thirds of people (65%) say that they have experienced a mental health problem.This rises to 7 in every 10 women, young adults aged 18-34 and people living alone.” The huge elephant in the room remains that, despite these terrifying statists, there is still a strong stigma (negative attitude) around mental health.

As a mother of 4, three of them teenagers, I am worried about how mental health issues will affect my own children as they grow into adults.The pressure in school, social media, cyber bullying, societal expectations and many other factors make it not easy for a teen to grow up in our societies. Social media has increased this pressure and suicide rates among teens have spiked. “Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S. Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made an attempt to take their lives”, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The US is no outlier in this. According to data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), analysed by Young Minds, “suicide rates among young people aged 15-19 in England rose by 35 per cent from 2020 to 2021. In 2020, 147 young people aged 15-19 in England took their own lives.This rose to 198 in 2021.” What could be the possible solutions. I am very aware that this is a very complex topic. However, one needs to start somewhere and that is where this article comes in. Let us narrow it down to a specific timeframe. During the 2020-2021 global pandemic children spend a significant amount of time on their phones and computers. Not just for leisure but also due to their online school requirements. The consequence of this is that our children are now more attached to their electronics than any other generation before them. They have become slaves to the social media platforms they feed every day. It has replaced physical activity, face to face contact, being in nature, and real life.This has a significant impact on their mental health.As a solution parents can put timers on each app, track their online behaviour and most importantly use this newly gained knowledge and talk to their children about it.

On a policy level, it would be great to have access to coaching and psychologists for young and old, by providing 1 or 2 monthly free sessions to each. This is a significant financial commitment on the part of our leaders. However, prevention is exponentially cheaper than treatment. Because, when one gets sick it not only affects the family and community of that person, but also the workforce and leaves a void behind. The creation of local support groups, reinforced by the public show of support by their leaders will also make a difference.There are groups already. However, often these groups are being seen as groups for ‘crazy’ people, and no one would like to be categorised as crazy. Quite understandably. We need to break that stigma in our society and how we talk about mental health and mental health issues.

I have often advocated for an insurance policy that favours your monthly contribution if you also see a psychologist. Seeing a psychologist does not need to be seen that you as a person have a problem. One can compare this to the example of gym membership.We all go to the gym and are proud of our achievements there. However, we are embarrassed to say that one sees a psychologist. How about changing the narrative to: I train my body – I go to the gym; I train my brain- I go to the psychologist or life coach.

Small changes in narratives reinforced by our leaders can make a huge difference. It would certainly create a more forward thinking and inclusive society where people feel safe to talk about all aspects of their life’s based on the foundation of mental health. I finish this short article with a saying “Your health is your wealth”. IF YOU WISH TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE, CONTACT DAME TESSY ANTONY DE NASSAU, MOTHER OF 4, WITH DIRECT MESSAGE ON INSTAGRAM @TESSY_FROM_LUXEMBOURG. FIND MORE ABOUT HER WORK AT WWW.TESSYDENASSAU.COM