I know we are supposed to believe it’s OK not to be OK (and we really do believe it for other people) but many of us will never believe it of “me”. Mental health support needs to accept that fact and adapt to it if it wants to help us.
Don’t believe me? Let me try to convince you.
Mike* lives in a flat in inner London. In more normal times he drinks at the pub a few doors down from me. He spent much of his life in the army. He has no family but plenty of friends who he travels the country to drink with.
Bread and Milk
I met mike because, getting on in years, he was isolating during lockdown and used a charity app to ask someone to bring him some bread and milk. I was volunteering that day.
Women calling via the app were pretty diverse. Some needed a chat, some wanted to find out if there was other help available and some needed supplies.
Men all needed groceries. I never got a single call from a man feeling lonely, lost, sad or scared but many were like Mike, who, when I brought things round, had a lot to talk about before I left.
Not Admitting Weakness
Mike missed beer with his mates. He was climbing the walls with boredom. He was angry at not knowing how long things would last. He was fed up at being seen as old and weak by the government’s “stupid” rules. He was impatient to get back to normal.
He went round and round for three hours getting it all off his chest again and again while we drank socially distanced cans of Red Stripe.
Now, my community might not be normal but I’m sure it isn’t unique either and I spent a lot of afternoons with a lot of Mikes while volunteering.
Even while asking for help – not one man admited weakness. They expressed anger, frustration and boredom – code for anxiety, stress and an unhappy mental state – but the only “help” they needed was someone to bring groceries.
Many people still need this sort of surupticious help. Not anonymous help to ensure other people don’t find out – help by the back door so they don’t have to admit it to themselves.
I hope we can remember that because while we strive to help people feel #ItsOKNotToBeOK, there will still be people who need help who can’t admit it to themselves and we must reach them too.
*Mike was not called Mike, obviously.