With September 10th being RUOK Day, we are encouraged to check in on friends and see how they are coping. In 2020 this could not be more important than ever. Any person can be subject to intense stresses and face mental health issues. Throw a pandemic and lockdown into that, and it can only increase reports of anxiety exponentially!
People face stressors throughout their whole lives: having children, raising children, affording schooling for children, work, workplace politics, unemployment, finances, lack of finances, applying for financing, the list is endless and so we won’t go into it. People become more acutely aware of what stresses them as things pile up and start to affect their health.
Unfortunately for many, they will not realise they are stressed until the health incident. My father was never sick a day in his life, until his first heart attack. Many years of illness followed before his passing, along with a less stressful desk job. If my father had told anyone he was under pressure at work, we may have been able to help him. If nothing else, if someone asks you if RUOK, tell them the truth!
Then you have people like myself and many others I know personally, where it is just inherited. We have always been anxious and “high-strung”. Although I was not given an option, medication is quite simple and has been extremely effective in managing my panic attacks. So much so, that I can speak in public, often, and do. I work in Sales and Tourism. Not exactly places I can hide. I preferred therapy, but that is such a long journey, and frankly I do not have time for it myself. But I found it far more effective than medication.
During Covid-19’s long and traumatic stranglehold on our planet, I have continued working. This has been a blessing and a hard slog. My job transitioned for a time to physical, manual labour. Not something my extremely overweight body coped with with any grace. But it was good for my health for a time. There was also no traffic as everyone else was sent home. Then return to office work after a few months and more people return to the roads. It became slightly more pressure to try selling to people that had no budget, while driving with people that were much happier at home during lockdowns.
However, many people did not have the joy of continuing work in any fashion. They may have been made redundant, laid off outright, asked to take leave for a time, or had hours trimmed to fit within the staff budgeting.
There are worrying reports of people struggling during Covid and lockdowns. As a worldwide phenomenon, it has affected all populations equally. There will be countries with much higher rates of mental health issues, as perhaps their heads of state may not have managed the pandemic as well as other nations.
But the numbers of suicides specifically have not been discussed, neither have mental health issues as much. It may still be seen by many males that speaking of these issues is seen as weak. As well as now perhaps not being the breadwinner of the household they feel responsible for. The number of suicides in Australia alone, since the beginning of Covid, has been six times greater than deaths from the virus.
We homeschooled one of my sons for several years. I went into it with much research, many tools at my disposal, and constant study of lesson plans. Parents of school aged children this year were thrown headlong into homeschooling, whether they had time to have the children at home even, or not. We opted to keep our youngest at home slightly longer than the other children in the state, but only because my oldest is an essential worker and we had to keep her clients safe. We did this quite happily as we were accustomed to it with our other son.
Our primary school also, magnificently, sent schoolwork out in the mail, often, that I know teachers had put together during their “holidays” after Term 1. I just don’t believe any of our teachers had school holidays after Term 1. My son’s teacher rang after a few weeks to check up on everyone at home and see how he was travelling with the work sent out. There was an app we used to upload all school work, whether it was a video of a presentation, photo of bookwork, or updates of progress of assignments. There was so much support! (As opposed to when you opt to homeschool the rest of the time, when there is no support, constant assessment with the government, and you must design all lesson plans yourself.) Now that most children are back at school, and Victoria will get there one day, parents can lose a bit of the additional stress Coronavirus handed them.
This year has handed us so many extra struggles (we won’t even go into the fact our family chose THIS year to apply for a loan to build a new house!), that everyone should be asking anyone they know RUOK? You can even do this safely now. I’m pretty sure in year’s past, you could have called or texted a friend and asked if they were coping alright. This year you may not have an option.
No matter how you ask someone, take the time to listen to their answer. Reply to them, even if it’s a short answer. Let them know someone is out there caring about what they are going through.