If ever there was an appropriate time for mental health awareness, it’s now. Well, almost. The UK’s 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week coincided with a near-global lockdown that’s predicted to have a significant long-term impact on mental health. It’s no surprise that much of the week explored mental illness through the lens of Covid-19. But, as we know, the global mental health epidemic had a life long before lockdown. The Coronavirus crisis has only added more fuel to the fire.
Our own mental health focus last week took a broader view. WPP Health Practice International CEO Claire Gillis spoke to Russ Kane of Men’s Radio Station about a topic that deserves more attention – men’s mental health. It’s a growing challenge, with men less likely to seek help for their mental health problems. And it’s got particular resonance in highly-pressurised creative industries.
We also hosted a podcast
with our in-house counsellor, Nathan Burt, exploring the mental challenges of life in lockdown and suggesting ways to cope in the era of social distancing. Nathan spoke about the influence – and importance – of routine on our mental health.
We are creatures of habit, so when our routines are interrupted – through things like illness, personal relationship issues or (unbelievably) global lockdown – our mental wellbeing inevitably suffers. As humans, our cognitive capacity is not naturally equipped for agility: we know our lane, and as best we can, we stick to it. But when something throws us off track, we reach for the side-rails of routine only to find they’re not there to help us. It’s no wonder we occasionally lose our balance.
So in a world where the R-rate has become a global obsession, an entirely different ‘R’ is key to inspiring an uptick in mental health: routine. As an industry, and as a society, we need to make sure that the focus on mental wellbeing becomes the routine not the exception. Annual spotlights like Mental Health Awareness Work are super important, but if we’re going to make a difference, we need to keep the conversation going far beyond them.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a powerful vehicle to drive discussion around mental illness. But, to misquote a famous commercial: mental health is for life, not just for Coronavirus.