On Wednesday 28th October at 1.30pm, with funding from The Mayflower Fund and the European Solidarity Corps, The Restorative Justice for All International Institute (RJ4All) will hold their FRED Mayflower Youth Awards ceremony.

The online ceremony, which will be hosted on RJ4All’s YouTube channel, marks the end of a 16 month long online competition in which young people have been submitting entries to commemorate the Mayflower, and celebrate culture and migration. The best submissions in each of the 4 categories (Writing, Art, Community Project’s and Music, Dance and Drama) are currently displayed in their online exhibition.

The awards 2020 are part of the FRED youth-led campaign run and managed by young people from across the world and hosted by RJ4All.

Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE said: “During these challenging times when it’s easy to feel lonely or overwhelmed, culture can help bring us closer together, so it’s fantastic to see so many wonderful and imaginative works or art submitted to the Mayflower awards. It really does show that our creative future is in great hands.”

At the event, guests will hear from RJ4All’s funders and local supporters, including Justine Simmons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Cllr Nick Johnson, Councillor, Surrey Docks Ward and Matthew Allgood, United St Saviours Charity. There will also be presentations from keynote speakers Martin Spafford and Joshua Garry, local historians and educationalists, who will be talking about the history of migration to the UK.

Dr. Theo Gavrielides, RJ4All’s Founder and Director said: “This is just what we need when the headlines are occupied by death and despair. The many submissions by our young people are a much-needed glimmer of hope. We are very proud of the strong equality messages that are sent through their art, and we are grateful to everyone who supported this initiative. There will be many to come”.

Throughout the course of the online competition, RJ4All have received some absolutely amazing entries including beautiful paintings and drawings, inspiring spoken word poetry, delicious migration recipe books, and ingenious hip hop songs! All of which reflect the major theme of the awards – celebrating the contribution of migrants in the UK.

One of the young participants, Sami Kashif (25) said, “My experience has been truly incredible. I have been able to express my artistic talent and explore crucial issues of immigration and community cohesion. Being someone with a mixed ethnic family has made this particularly interesting and relevant.”

And another younger participant, Jamarley Young (12) commented, “I loved taking part in the competition. I really enjoyed researching the different footballers’ backgrounds”.

With the support of their sponsors RJ4All, will be awarding the winners with amazing prizes, including iPads, tablets, theatre tickets, Coach UK items, £50 gift vouchers, trips to London Zoo and Kew Gardens, and career coaching opportunities and internships.

To access the FRED Mayflower Youth Awards ceremony, simply watch as it is streamed on RJ4All’s YouTube channel at 1.30pm on Wednesday 28th October and to view the online exhibition of the finalist pieces.

Ends.

Notes to Editors

You can visit the exhibition by selecting the link in the project webpage: www.fredcampaign.org/awards-2020/.

Our funders:

 

More quotes:

“As a volunteer I supported the competition by helping to run a social media campaign, this included designing and sharing social media posts. I promoted each of our categories and their associated prizes. I also helped judge the submissions which was very difficult since we received so many incredible submissions from such talented individuals”

  • Lara Riad, 19, RJ4All’s FRED Youth Advisory Board member

“FANTASTIC RJ4All! Just went on a virtual tour of the exhibition…….amazing!

  • Clare, parent of participant

“Thanks for this – it looks fantastic!!! Massive well done to everyone involved.”

  • Kate, facilitator, The APE Project – St Pauls Adventure Playground

Funders and supporters

 “We are delighted to support this exciting community led project that commemorates the anniversary of the Mayflower sailing and celebrates stories of migration through cultural activities.”

  • Matthew Allgood, United St Saviours Charity

“I’d like to add my congratulations to RJ4All. They are exactly the kind of organisation that communities, particularly post-Covid need. There work in seeking to bring communities and people from different backgrounds together has never been more needed than it has been today and this year with the anniversary of the Mayflower, it’s a poignant reminder of the powerful contribution that immigrants have always made to this country”.

  • Nick Johnson, Liberal Democrat Councillor, Surrey Docks Ward

Half a year ago the world was a different place. We did not know what the expression “social distancing” meant, and the idea of a country being in lockdown sounded like something out of a movie. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, at RJ4All we received calls from young people that were concerned about their futures. Many of us suddenly started studying or working from home, exams were cancelled, and a lot of young people lost their jobs as restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels closed. The situation of lockdown also increased the levels of anxiety, stress and loneliness, especially among young people.

Six months later, we are almost used to the “new normal”. We carry a face mask on our bags, we wash our hands many times a day and we instinctively keep distance with people in the street. It could seem that things are indeed going back to normal: the number of positive cases is much lower than in April and May, and schools and universities are slowly reopening. However, the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on young people’s lives is still very present.[1] The uncertainties about the future in terms of studies and opportunities for employment continue to generate anxiety. As a youth-led organisation, the FRED campaign is aware of all the new mental health concerns that young people are facing, and we want to help.

The “You are not alone” Covid-19 campaign aims to improve young people’s mental health, raise awareness about mental health issues and break the stigma often associated with mental illness. We want to tackle loneliness and empower young people by providing them with a sense of resilience. The project comprises the following services, all of which are confidential and compliant with RJ4All’s online safeguarding statement.

  • Free helpline monitored by trained young volunteers, who are here to listen to you in total confidentiality, and provide you support and guidance. You can call us on 0333 332 5042 from 10am to 10pm every day. Whether you are dealing with anxiety or loneliness, or you need some support to access food and PPE, our team of volunteers is always ready to listen and help. This service is totally free, and we will not keep record of any personal details or issues discussed during the call.
  • If you prefer to talk with our volunteers over a chat box, you can contact us every day from 10am to 10pm on our website. This service is also operated by certified volunteers and all data is confidential.
  • Our FRED Website offers a youth-led community forum, which offers young people a free space to share their feelings and concerns with others, thus creating a sense of community, building relations and reducing loneliness. Users can create their profiles and discuss any issue related to mental health and wellbeing. The forum is monitored by our volunteers, who ensure that the posts respect the forum rules and that privacy is guaranteed. Anyone can contribute and everyone’s voice will be heard.
  • We have also created a certified e-course that aims to train anyone wishing to learn how to improve their understanding of mental health problems. The training is targeted to anyone that wants to learn how to effectively support people who are experiencing poor mental health especially in relation to the implications caused by COVID19.
  • We distribute free food and PPE to families in need in Southwark, and we periodically donate PPE to young people and organisations that work in the front line.
  • You can join our Facebook group to stay up to date with our project and find out about free resources and activities.

Finally, we have a bank of free resources with over 200 links. These include free activities for children, families and young people, but also free courses, webinars and information about Covid-19 and its effects. There is also a broad list of resources about mental health and wellbeing, and many physical activities and programmes to do to improve your wellbeing.

 

[1] Research focusing on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health shows that young people aged under 25 are suffering more with mental health issues over the last few months than any other age group. The Guardian. “Under-25s bearing brunt of Covid mental-health toll – survey”. Accessible here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/aug/30/under-25s-bearing-brunt-of-covid-mental-health-toll-survey?fbclid=IwAR1HkfwI7f48fQtuP8IkFMLUIFcOR6pBGWRc9j0Y6iLXUpCRNAU6iAWBay8

It is no surprise that being in isolation has had an immense negative impact on people’s mental health. Yet, as lockdown restrictions ease, how will mental health be affected? For some, being able to go out and meet up with friends and family will bring joy and excitement, but for others it can bring severe anxiety.

After nearly 5 months of staying inside, it can feel strange to go out into public spaces. We have gotten so accustomed to staying inside that it feels almost unnatural to go back to work, to a restaurant, or to a loved one’s house. It is also very probable that people will feel anxious, nervous, or even stressed about resuming activities they were once so used to due to the worry of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to others. Moreover, it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the ‘right’ things to do when it comes to going out, including wearing facemasks, making sure to stay around 2 metres apart from others and sanitising frequently.

Young people and those experiencing mental illness are especially vulnerable when it comes to the pandemic. For people with mental illnesses such as social anxiety disorder, social situations are tough enough without having to add the fear of getting infected. YoungMinds reports that young people will need extra mental health support after lockdown as many of them are experiencing anxiety about life ‘returning back to normal’. Adding on, data from the Mental Health in the Pandemic study shows that 32% of young people and 31% of people with pre-existing mental conditions in the study’s sample still feel hopeless as lockdown rules are relaxed.

It is clear to see that Covid-19 is greatly affecting people’s mental health, both during lockdown and after it. With so much uncertainty going around, it is important to take care of oneself and others. Practicing meditation, keeping in touch with loved ones, and seeking support if needed, are all ways to cope with anxiety surrounding ‘the new normal’.

Posted by Lara Riad.

Coronavirus has taken over the country with everyone having to change their daily routines and adjust their attitudes to social interactions. This is a huge change for everyone, and the impacts of these changes should not be taken lightly. However, it is important to note there is a pandemic on top of an epidemic in the UK at the moment. Domestic violence can be seen as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threating, degrading and violent behaviour. This can include sexual violence and is often by a partner or ex-partner.

In this current climate it is more important than ever to speak out about domestic violence. With the current COVID-19 crisis the nation is having to spend an unprecedented amount of time at home. This is a very difficult time for everyone with our normal lives being put on hold and having schedules changing dramatically. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity has reported a 700% rise in call to their helplines every day.

Although this quarantine is meant to keep us all safe that is not the case for those who are at risk of domestic violence. Having to spend all of this time at home is causing tensions to rise across the UK. The normal routes of escape for victims are now closed, with nowhere to go or escape. This is why we need to find a solution and quickly. If you are experiencing domestic violence it is important to know that you aren’t alone even if you can’t leave the house as normal there are still people who care for you.

The amount of domestic violence cases are rising during this quarantine. With 173 people dying from domestic violence every year. We need to act now so that 2020 figures aren’t even higher due to COVID-19.

Everyone can do something by just checking in on your friends and family during this time through videocalls and texts. If you suspect something but they won’t speak to you about it point them in the direction of help.

Women who are victims of domestic violence are speaking out to raise awareness during lockdown. As of the start of lockdown 14 women have been killed due to domestic violence and that number is going to continue to increase. Women across the US and the UK have been posting photos of the domestic violence they have experienced to raise awareness. As helplines have seen a 49 percent increase in domestic violence linked calls. MPs are now calling for the government to put in action plans to help those experiencing domestic violence in lockdown. The commons home affairs committee warned the emotional, physical and social scars from domestic abuse can last a life time. If we don’t act to tackle it now, we will feel the consequences of rising abuse during the coronavirus for many years to come. The government has acknowledged that the order to stay home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic violence, so the government has chosen to fund several charities who can provide advice and support. There is never an excuse for domestic violence, no matter what the circumstances.

The coronavirus is seen to have a huge impact on domestic violence all across the world. The UN has warned that women in poorer countries and smaller homes are more likely to have fewer ways to report abuse. So as the UK has the facilities available to help those victims of domestic violence, it is important to raise awareness of the problems and the facilities available for those people.

If you are experiencing domestic violence speak to someone you are close to or one of the helplines below.

Refuge

08082000247 – https://www.refuge.org.uk/

Girls & Women Network

08088010660- https://www.wgn.org.uk/

Galop

08009995428 – http://www.galop.org.uk/

Victim Support

08081689111 – https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/

Respect Men’s Advice Line

08088010327 – https://mensadviceline.org.uk/

Post by Hannah Prosser

The message from government over the past 5 weeks has been to “Stay Home,” “Protect the NHS” and to “Save Lives”. These measures have been seen as crucial in the fight to overcome coronavirus. However, for over 300,000 people in the UK, following this guidance is not easy, and for some, it is impossible. There are an estimated 320,000 homeless individuals in the UK. 2019 data suggests that on a “typical night”, 4,266 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on the streets of England (Homeless Link, 2020). During the coronavirus pandemic, this puts those without permanent housing in a unique and dangerous position, and leads to the question: how can homeless people possibly be expected to stay safe during this crisis?

 

Much of the advice and guidance provided by the government is only applicable to the general population. Measures such as staying home, keeping good hygiene practices and social distancing can prove to be almost impossible for those with unstable housing situations. According to the homeless charity Shelter, for “thousands of families with children currently stuck in cramped emergency B&Bs and hostels, it can be almost impossible to follow NHS isolation guidance” (Shelter, 2020).

 

Those residing in crowded temporary housing are not able to socially distance from others, and if one individual in the residence were to contract Covid-19, it puts everyone in the building at high risk. Furthermore, those sleeping rough, are unable to “stay at home”, distance from others or maintain hygiene like regular hand washing. This is not only a problem for physical health, but also for mental health, as the anxiety and fear of being infected is likely to be heightened in crowded situations or when living on the streets.

 

One’s housing situation itself is a social determinant of health, with homeless individuals being more susceptible to health complications because of poor nutrition, compromised immune systems and an increased level of respiratory disorders (Crisis, 2020). Those who sleep rough have a life expectancy 30 years lower than the average person (Office of National Statistics, 2018). Homeless charities are becoming increasingly concerned, that as well as being at higher risk, those without permanent housing may struggle to access the health services they might require during the pandemic (Shelter, 2020).

 

Despite government measures to ensure that all rough sleepers are housed in appropriate emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic, there are a number of challenges that the homeless population still face. Unfortunately, not everyone without a home is eligible for the scheme. Those with certain immigration statuses, such as refused asylum seekers or those who have not formally applied as homeless to their local councils cannot benefit from this measure. This once again leaves a section of society unprotected in this uncertain time.

 

Maintaining the physical and mental health of all people during this pandemic is paramount. It must not be forgotten that the homeless population still make up part of our society and it must be ensured that they are not excluded from social, economic and health policy.

 

Post by Rebecca Mutsatsa

 

Sources

 

Crisis. (2020). Crisis Emergency Fund. Retrieved from Crisis : https://www.crisis.org.uk/get-involved/in-this-together/?meganav=1

 

Glenton, J. (2018). Research shows that many rough sleepers have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. Retrieved from Riverside: https://www.riverside.org.uk/rough-sleepers/ 

 

Homeless Link. (2020). Rough sleeping. Retrieved from homeless.org: https://www.homeless.org.uk/facts/homelessness-in-numbers/rough-sleeping/rough-sleeping-our-analysis

 

Office of National Statistics. (2018). Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales: 2013 to 2017. Office of National Statistics.

 

Shelter(2020, Mar 17). Shelter Press Releases. Retrieved from Shelter: https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_releases/articles/shelter_responds_to_3.2_million_emergency_support_for_rough_sleepers_during_coronavirus_outbreak

 

 

Wall, T. (2020, Apr 12). Cramped living conditions may be accelerating UK spread of coronavirus. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/virus-hitting-hardest-modern-equivalent-victorian-slums

 

 

The Lancet. (2020). Covid-19: a potential public health problem for homeless populations. The Lancet, 5.

For everyone, the world has changed somewhat from how we knew it just five months ago. Our focus, not just individually but globally, has been abruptly switched from a milieu of issues to the pandemic of COVID-19. While many of us switch gears, slow down or take up new battles against this deadly virus, we are in danger of forgetting that the societal issues we were discussing just five months ago, are still there. Although many of these could now be left to languish in the shadows of the largest public health crisis for a century. As issues in the UK, such as an underfunded national health service come to the fore, others such as child poverty, domestic abuse or social inequality are exacerbated, but struggle for prominence. Around the world, wars, such as those in Yemen and Syria continue. Pro-democracy activists are quietly tucked away in Hong Kong and China, while the international community is distracted. As a public mental health crisis and economic recession loom on the horizon, we watch many neo-liberal leaders in western democracies, who previously told us that there is no magic money tree; now pour billions into starved public services and floundering economies. It’s of crucial importance at this time, that we all focus our efforts on fighting COVID-19. However, it is also important that we remain vigilant and remind those in power of potentially marginalised communities and issues that could be easily subsumed. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was reported by UK charities such as Refuge, that up to two women a week are killed by a partner or former partner in England and Wales, when citing data published by the Office for National  Statistics (ONS) for April 2018 – March 2019[1]. Since lockdown conditions came into effect in March 2020, there have been increased calls for further provision to be made available for refuge services, and those fleeing domestic violence (DV). These calls have coincided with a spike in the reported incidence of DV[2] and an understanding amongst many agencies supporting affected families that public holidays, and periods of time when families are home, can precede a rise in such reports. It is estimated that since 2010, austerity has caused one in six refuges to close their doors[3]. It is arguably only now that the tragic lack of funding in this area is being realised. The government’s recent announcement of an emergency funding package worth 750 million for frontline charities is welcome, but for many organisations in this sector that are already under-resourced, the economic pressures are truly being felt. It is also worth noting here the current rates of child poverty in the UK. According to a report published by the Social Metrics Commission in July 2019, an estimated 4.6 million children in the UK live in poverty[4]. In the current climate, with support services reduced and initiatives such as free-school-meals suspended, there is a potential for these figures to increase. With rising unemployment and instability that will affect many, we will see those with the least economic resilience hit hardest. These issues and others like them were apparent before the pandemic and will continue to be during, and afterwards. Further consequences to vulnerable communities as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown could potentially be moderated by ensuring that they do not fall from public consciousness.

 

[1] Refuge – Our Work
Office for National Statistics – How are victims and suspects related

[2] BBC news article – 27th April UK lockdown

The Guardian – Charges-and-cautions-for-domestic-violence-rise-by-24-in-london

[3] https://www.independent.co.The Independent – Domestic-abuse-refuges-government-funding-announcement – 2019

https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/projects/refuges

[4] https://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/social-metrics-commission-2019-report/

https://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/new-report-on-poverty-from-independent-commission-highlights-scale-of-challenge-facing-new-prime-minister/

 

Child Sexual Abuse and Restorative Justice

by Aliza Khan

 

Restorative justice allows those affected by all forms of crime to explain to the offenders the impact their criminality has had on them. It gives victims a voice. The damage caused by the sexual abuse of children is incalculable. The practice of restorative justice emerged in various countries as a way of dealing constructively with those legally or morally responsible for the abuse. It can aid victims of abuse in their recovery, but also the rehabilitation process for offenders.

 

The Ministry of Justice defines restorative justice as “the process that brings those harmed by crime, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.”

 

According to the Ministry, there are numerous processes of restorative justice, including:

  • Victim-Offender Conferencing – this involves bringing the victim(s), offender(s) and supporters (such as a partner or family members) together in a meeting.

 

  • A Community Conference – this includes bringing together the members of a community which has been affected by a particular crime and the offenders.

 

  • “Shuttle RJ” – this consists of a trained restorative justice facilitator passing messages back and forth between the victim and offender. The participants do not meet.

 

  • Neighbourhood Justice Panels – this involves trained volunteers from a local community facilitating meetings between victims and offenders for low-level crime and antisocial behaviour.

 

  • “Street RJ” – is usually facilitated by police officers between offenders, victims and other stakeholders in attendance at the time of the incident.

 

Today four main types of child abuse are generally recognised including (1) Physical Abuse (2) Emotional Abuse (3) Sexual Abuse (4) Neglect.  According to the NSPCC sexual abuse is defined as (but not limited to) the following:

 

  • Sexual abuse occurs when a child is forced or tricked into sexual activities. This can include using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child, making a child undress or touch someone else, exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor, making, viewing or distributing child abuse images or videos.

 

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 3.1 million people aged 18-74 were sexually abused in childhood. The use of restorative justice with victims of child sexual abuse is much debated. People point to the dangers of re-victimising the victim, others point to the benefits of empowering the victim (Penal Reform International, 2016). Taking this into consideration: How beneficial is restorative justice in addressing child sexual abuse?

 

One noticeable benefit is that it provides a valuable context and rich insight into the circumstances of both victims and offenders. The restorative process shines a beacon on the issues and vulnerabilities the offender is facing (Catch 22, 2020). Child sexual abuse isn’t limited to geography, social class, religion, culture or ethnicity. There are several deeply rooted, complex and interrelated societal factors that can contribute to sexual abuse. Research demonstrates that social problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse and poverty can play a factor in the facilitation of abuse (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2004). Knowledge like this helps victims to understand what led that person to crime. In a randomised trial Victims First, highlight that restorative justice provides an 85% victim satisfaction rate. For many victims, meeting the person who has harmed them can be a huge step in healing and recovering from the crime.  They demonstrate:

  • 72% of victims said their conference had provided them with a sense of closure.
  • 78% of victims would recommend to others.

In reverse, the offender begins to see the impact of their actions on the lives of their victim. Child sexual abuse has numerous potential consequences that can last a lifetime and span generations, with serious effects on health, education, employment, and the economic well-being of the individual (Media Kit on Sexual Assault, 2020).

 

Statistics published by Darkness to Light  indicate:

  • Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are more than twice as likely to report a suicide attempt.
  • Female adult survivors of child sexual abuse are nearly three times more likely to report substance use problems.
  • Male sexual abuse survivors have twice the HIV infection rate of non-abused males.

 

The Restorative Justice Council note that restorative justice has been shown to help reduce re-offending by 14%.

 

This article has examined the potential of restorative justice programmes to facilitate conflict resolution for victims of child sexual abuse and the rehabilitation of offenders. Meeting face to face can be a powerful and rewarding experience for both. There is clear evidence that restorative justice can provide tangible benefits and is a powerful tool in developing cohesive and democratic societies. However, it’s important to note that restorative justice can have its limitations too (Penal Reform International, 2016). Notably, some concerns include:

 

  • The victim can be re-victimised by the process.
  • Psychological harm may be brought to the victim especially if the offender shows no empathy towards them.
  • It relies on voluntary cooperation from the victim and the offender. Criminals may not want to participate or take responsibility for their crime.
  • The safety of victims, particularly in a situation of power imbalance.

 

Taking this into consideration restorative justice can be highly beneficial as long as victims’ needs are placed at the forefront and securing redress remains the central objective.

 

Alysa Khan

 

References

 

Catch 22, (2020), Why restorative justice matters for victims, offenders and communities, https://www.catch-22.org.uk/news/why-restorative-justice-matters-for-victims-offenders-and-communities/

 

Child Welfare Information Gateway, (2004), Risk and Protective Factors for Child Abuse and Neglect, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/riskprotectivefactors.pdf

 

Media Kit on Sexual Assault, (2020), CONSEQUENCES OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, https://www.inspq.qc.ca/en/sexual-assault/understanding-sexual-assault/consequences

 

Penal Reform International, (2016), What can restorative justice offer victims of domestic violence?,https://www.penalreform.org/blog/can-restorative-justice-offer-victims-domestic-violence/

 

 

I have, for as far back as I can remember, struggled in public situations. My mind, adept at sowing doubt, places blind suspicion in the motives of others, imagines boredom in those I talk to, attacking me with every blink, or gap in the conversation. At nights I lie awake convincing myself to borderline certainty that all those I love or care about see me as something to be tolerated, or with outright disdain. 


There is no evidence for this, you understand, and lived experience has generally taught me otherwise. But, since 2013, I have worked hard to chip away at these spectres. At a time when my mind demanded I stay inside, I walked across Spain. When it demanded I avoid large gatherings and talk, I went to conferences and spoke. When it demanded isolation, I sought community. I have built a structure of confidence and self-support that has held me up in spite of everything but standing atop it now, I see the surge of this virus coming towards me, ready to wash it all away.

I will not bore you (and nor do I have space) with my experiences of what preceded this (which I’ve documented here, here, and here). But given the current, unprecedented times we live in, marking it with some words about the impact it is having on mental health could prove to be productive. I believe that there is still very much stigma around mental illness. Although in recent years the topic has been discussed more openly, and with appropriate sincerity, suicide remains globally the second leading cause of death in males. The suicide rate in the UK amounts to roughly one every half an hour. Although of course, not every suicide can be directly attributed to mental illness, those with mental illness have been found to be at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts. It is a killer that predates COVID-19 and will outlast COVID-19, so, continued honest discussion of the topic is vital, both as a method of raising awareness as well as addressing the stigma.

As the situation surrounding COVID-19  is ongoing, it is probably too early to perform any form of academic analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on those with mental health conditions. So, with this in mind, here are a few paragraphs of my own perspective and observations of the daily functioning (or lack thereof) of my mind. After all, it’s difficult to interview others about the topic right now.

Observations

On a day-to-day level, perhaps because of my natural introversion, the pressure of forced isolation or quarantine has not hit me yet. Instead though, I find myself living in a peculiar sense of emotional numbness. A general, blind sense of… not much at all; no happiness, nor sadness, no lethargy, nor excitement. I feel merely awake. 

 

This, I suppose, is to be expected, being stuck inside is not a condition that exactly sparks the imagination, but this degree of anhedonia can be a symptom of depression, which may turn into something more severe.

Of course, depression and anxiety are conditions that distort thoughts as much as they poison emotion. At its worst, even the most delusional thoughts borne from depression can seem purely reasonable, the depressed mind seeks confirmation and validation at all times. I can recall inspecting every item of food I came into contact with for signs of ‘tampering and poisoning’. 


So, when the news is filled with stories of mass panic, deaths, photographs of emergency field hospitals being created in Central Park and in conference centres…the mind jumps at the possibilities. It is natural and it certainly doesn’t take bad brain chemistry or a few misfiring neurons to get concerned about this. Yet, in a mind already tilting towards dread, the constant barrage of news of COVID-19 and the consequences it has had on us all has felt like validation and confirmation of some of the thoughts that only weeks ago would have felt like paranoia. It is no surprise then that there was a spike in depression and anxiety immediately following when the lockdown was put in place.

I am, of course, not saying that lockdown should be lifted to relieve this added depression, but we should recognise that the long-term health problems stemming from this global lockdown are unlikely to be limited to the virus itself, and once the world’s doors open again, many of us will find ourselves still, mentally, locked away.

Arthur Peirce