This Mental Health Awareness week I am worried that, despite the theme of Kindness, self-care will continue to receive more emphasis than collective care.
Although it is important to make time for yourself, to exercise, eat a balanced diet and keep up good hygiene, I am worried we are putting too much focus on a very small aspect of wellbeing and care. Self-care dominates our conversations about care, websites and social media pages are already showing a spike in advertisements for wellness kits and products. This is understandable, many of us are isolated due to the coronavirus lockdown, and are grappling to feel more in control, but now more than ever, it’s important to spread the message that you can reach out: you do not have to go it alone. If you need to, please call someone, ask for help.
We all need care. We struggle to accept this, but it’s undeniable that throughout our earliest years we are dependent on the care of adults, and if we are lucky enough to live to old age we will likely depend on the care of others again. It is easy to spare little thought for care, and for those of us with additional needs, health problems and disabilities, who depend on care daily.
We would like to define ourselves as independent individuals, because we are a society that values self-reliance, and ambition. We are taught to confuse kindness with charity, that a productive member of society is self-made and asks for little. Self-reliance is an important quality, but the idea that anyone is entirely self-made, that anyone can make it through life without community, assistance, tutorage, or care is a complete fallacy.
If this pandemic has taught us anything it is that care should be at the core of our society and government policy. It has taught us that care should not just be the responsibility of one individual over themselves, but it is a duty we have for one another. This is represented best by our health and social care services that have held us afloat during these incredibly difficult times, despite lacking in funding, PPE and testing.
The latest speech from our prime minister emphasised the importance of individual responsibility over a duty to care for our most vulnerable through sensible policy and collective action.
Despite this, despite the grief and fear felt through our communities, this pandemic we have learnt the true meaning of care. Communities have come together in collective action: offering mutual aid, ensuring the most vulnerable among us are looked after, volunteering at foodbanks and within the NHS. There are many health and social care workers who continue to care for us despite the detrimental effects on their own health and wellbeing. This is care, it is a coming together, it is action.
We are discovering how collective care can keep us strong and provide fulfilment and positivity in the most difficult of times. We do not have to face this thing alone. Care is complex, we have a long way to go in reframing how care is viewed, in providing adequate care and respite to those who need it, but this is a good place to start.
Find your mutual aid groups here or by doing a quick Facebook search:
If you are a carer in need of more support:
Please visit Carer’s UK
Or call Mencap’s helpline 0808 808 1111 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
If you are a care-worker in need of support:
Visit Unsion to discover how a Union will help protect your worker’s rights
If you are an NHS staff member and in need of support:
Call 0300 131 7000 (7.00am-23.00pm) or Text: FRONTLINE to 85258 (24/7)
If you are struggling with mental health you can call:
Samaritans on 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Or Rethink Mental Illness on 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)