2020 was an overwhelmingly difficult year for everyone and, as the year ended, we collectively looked forward to 2021 with a sense of hope. We hoped for a return to happier times and for a return to the normality for which we all yearn writes Virginia Crosbie MP.
Sadly, we entered 2021 deep in lockdown and with the certainty of many cold, dark and, for many people, lonely weeks ahead.
One of the biggest, but maybe least publicised, impacts of the pandemic combines the social and economic pressures we have all felt, that is the impact which COVID has inflicted on our mental health.
Over the last year COVID has made us increasingly aware of the mental health and wellbeing of ourselves and others.
Shielding and lockdown pushed thousands of people into severe isolation. We may not have seen our loved ones or enjoyed the warm embrace of a hug for months. We have been kept away from work, schools, recreation, friends and other support structures, and it has been exceptionally challenging for all of us kept at home by fear or necessity.
Some of us are, or will have, friends or family who are key workers – people who have been on the front line in our shops, schools, hospitals and care homes, working on public transport or carrying out other essential roles. The fear of going to work or, indeed, knowing a loved one is putting themselves at risk for the sake of others day after day can lead to severe anxiety.
Those of us who have had COVID or know someone who has, will understand the very real fear that this virus brings. Whilst there are patterns to its behaviour, and clear risk groups, that has not stopped COVID from taking young and apparently healthy people from us. Each person lost is a family in grief. And for those who recover, the long term physical and emotional effects can be hugely debilitating.
For the many who have been furloughed, lost work or struggled to keep businesses afloat, the stress of uncertainty and financial loss may be a daily worry.
These are just some of the ways in which COVID has taken a devastating toll on the mental health of our nation.
I am determined to do all that I can to help people who are suffering with mental health issues and, last month, I launched my Mental Health 100 Campaign in my constituency of Ynys Môn.
This Campaign aims to get one hundred people on Anglesey trained in mental health awareness and I feel hugely humbled that, already, 78 people have come forward to volunteer.
I have teamed up with the Local Conversations Team at Môn CF who will deliver accredited distance learning courses in Mental Health Awareness. I have also secured sponsorship to pay for training for those who could not otherwise afford it.
Anyone, in any walk of life, can benefit from Mental Health Awareness training, and I am looking forward to working with the team of volunteers to help the often hidden victims of the pandemic, those struggling with their mental health, to obtain the support that they need.
If you would like to take part in this online Mental Health Awareness course – or if you would like to sponsor someone from Anglesey to do it – you can sign up at https://virginiacrosbie.co.uk/mentalhealth100/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost of the course is £55 per person
Virginia Crosbie is the Member of Parliament for Ynys Mon and a PPS for the Department of Health and Social Care.