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The mental health conversation is big. Let’s start somewhere small – by Corin Pilling

‘If you were to pick one word to sum up the last 12 months, what would it be?’

I’ve asked a number of friends this question, and the responses were remarkably consistent. Usually the answer comes in one syllable and in anglo- saxon vernacular.

Yet in the  conversations that followed, we began to explore the impact of the past year. To hear ‘You too?’ as we compared the sense of time both extending and contracting was a moment of affirmation. To listen to someone else’s story of sleep deprivation put my own into perspective. To hear what it’s like to parent a toddler over the last 12 months felt sobering.

Survival mode’

During the pandemic we’ve experienced many challenges with little chance to process them fully-  ‘Survival mode’ may be a phrase we’ve used a lot. More than just a broad brush way of referring to our challenges, It’s a state of being which means that all of our energy is going into the day to day. 

If you’ve found your appetite for planning diminish, this is why. This will be an ongoing piece. Gabor Mate refers to trauma as an event that is problematic for us that is not witnessed, thus creating an ongoing negative impact.

Without being over dramatic- for many of us this will be our experiences of the year, some of which we may buried out of necessity. As my counsellor said to me one time ‘Your emotions are energy. Which means they have to go somewhere.’

Listening and sharing

Therapy has proved a vital way to help process my experiences, but there’s a lot to be said for the art of listening and sharing in our communities. Normalising our experiences of difficulty may be crucial to our collective recovery from them.

Talking about them together might help identify the times when we need extra support or professional help. It’s one way we can informally exercise our calling to lament and celebration, which feature so heavily in the biblical story.

Resilience and survival

Some experiences are best shared in confidence, particularly if they relate to deeper wounds. However, starting to develop shared language – and experiences where we can connect by listening to one another is the business of rebuilding as a community.

There is a narrative of celebration to be shared too. We got through this – there’s been learning, refining, new skills. As well as loss, there are tales of resilience and survival.

A game to start conversations…

I’ve got something for you to try to help pick up these conversations. It’s a game, and it’s available on a new app, which is free from Sanctuary, the Mental Health Charity I work for.

We wanted to find the most accessible way to start these conversations. So you’ll find the balance of questions tends towards the light and fun themes- combined with those that are more searching. The topics cover faith and wellbeing, and you might also be asked ‘what would you put in a 2020 time capsule?’

Positives and difficulties

It also offers a chance to explore the positives without shying away from the difficulties we’ve experienced.  We hope you’ll try it out on long summer walks, around a meal, on a picnic, a rainy beach-front shelter, or whenever you meet with others.

Whether you use this or choose another way, will you pick up the challenge to keep wellbeing front and centre?

All it needs is two people or more who are up for a conversation. You may be surprised at what needs to be heard or said, and who shows up when two or three are gathered.

It’s now up on Apple or Google

Corin Pilling is UK Director for Sanctuary

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