Mental Health & Social Distancing – experts everywhere

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted, and how the world has changed. Social distance is the phrase of 2020 and the impact of Covid-19 is being felt by us all, changing the way we live in the present and maybe beyond. I’ve been fascinated to observe how wider society and local communities have responded, particularly in the mental health space. In short, I’ve been uplifted by the openness to engage in conversation around mental health but very alarmed at how many people have suddenly become experts.

The Mind Race Vest The race vest rarely comes out other than for the Majors!

I’m definitely keeping this post short and sweet! A lesson I learned long ago was not to speak or write in detail on things about what I know relatively little.

What that means, for me, is that I can’t write about how we best fight Coronavirus societally or medically. Common sense assumes a certain knowledge but I leave the experts to advise on decisions and go by what they tell us to do.

One of the things that we have been told to do is to take one form of outdoor exercise daily, ensuring we maintain appropriate social distancing. I figured, pretty quickly, that this means avoiding my usual spots of Battersea Park and Clapham Common unless it is very early in the morning. It’s not a huge sacrifice to make.

As a runner, and as a confident runner, it’s my responsibility to role model the right behaviours to many others out there exercising, many of whom would never lace up a pair of running shoes in times other than these. It is possible to social distance but it requires all of us to be self-aware, watchful of those around us, and to strip away our egos… who gives a toss about running a seven minute mile when lives are being lost all around us?

It is clear that many seem unable to call upon either common sense or decency, and seem to think that the rules do not apply to them. My usual thought would be leave them to it and let the authorities deal with them BUT, sadly, the authorities are stretched to the limit and the actions of these few idiots are putting lives in danger and also threatening to stop the rest of us having the freedom of those few moments outside every day.

In short, we need to be naming and doing everything we can to shame and embarrass these morons into their houses where they cannot take the **** out of decent people trying to make the best of this awful situation in which we find ourselves.

So that rant is over, apart from me saying that I was delighted on this morning’s run to see London almost deserted, although I ventured neither into parks nor the Commons. The photos below would suggest I still had a beautiful route though!

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Back to the top photo then and the main reason I was choosing to write today. Those who know me well, and have followed my journey, will know that I very rarely train in my race vest. And this particular vest is certainly one of which I’m very proud, as I remain among a very small group of people to whom the golden vest has been awarded by Mind for services to mental health and as an ambassador of the charity.

I’m extremely proud to have been able to contribute to so many worthwhile campaigns and events over the years as we have seen the landscape change dramatically around mental health.

I absolutely love seeing so many conversations around mental health and am delighted to see so many business leaders speaking openly about their own journeys and empowering their people to be vulnerable.

I was very humbled to be selected, recently, as a role model on the InsideOut Leaderboard for 2020 alongside many senior leaders who have bravely spoken and are challenging the stigma which does still exist around mental wellbeing, and most importantly given impetus to growing conversation in this area.

But herein lies a challenge. Let me be clear right now and say that this is NOT remotely a reflection on the brilliant leaders who have deservedly been recognised as role models; however, as we have gone into lockdown, I have seen a saturation of posts telling people how to manage their mental wellbeing.

My emphasis in the last sentence is on the word telling. I have no issue with people sharing ideas, knowledge and advice for others around mental health. Again, it is brilliant that there is such open dialogue.

However, mental health and wellbeing is like anything else in life; the people we should listen to are those who are credible and have knowledge. I have largely stayed silent about mental health through the Coronavirus crisis and this is not because I have nothing to say or add of value, but mainly because the noise is deafening to the point of confusing people as they are being told so many things that they should be doing to manage their mental health, some derived from great and credible knowledge, others from the need to satisfy the profit and loss account.

Quite simply, all I can advise is this.

  • It’s absolutely fine to feel uncertain or scared at we embark upon something that few of us have experienced
  • Talk openly about your feelings
  • Take advice from people that you trust
  • BUT be confident that you know what works best for you

I can’t tell anyone how to manage their mental wellbeing through this period because all I know is what works for me.

I will advise, I will listen and I will love, but that is where it stops.

I’m not sure if the second part was a rant… it may well have been!! You’ve not heard from me for a few weeks so I was bound to have plenty to say!!

What I will say to you all is to stay safe, well and healthy. You can only support others if you, yourself, follow the instructions to maximise your own wellbeing.

Love and care for those around you and think about the things you can do to support others even from a distance.

Take care and I’ll be back with another rant… oops, calm discourse sorry, soon!

Rohan Kallicharan

Rohan is an award-winning mental health campaigner and speaker with lived experience of mental illness. He has been involved in a number of high-profile campaigns to raise awareness and break down the stigma around mental ill-health. He is a sub-3 hour marathon runner, HR Director and husband to Claire.