The impact of lockdowns has taken its toll on everyone in Irish society in some way.
What is not talked about is the mental health pandemic we are now dealing with in Ireland.
We are all expected to say that we are 'fine' when asked how we are, particularly now that restrictions have been eased somewhat.
It is rare that you will hear people being honest about how the past eighteen months has truly affected their mental health.
I am seeing clients of all ages in person and it breaks my heart to hear how lockdowns have affected and continue to affect the mental health of young and old.
I describe the lockdown experience as a type of pressure cooker environment where any issue that was already there in someone's life suddenly became even more intense and uncomfortable.
People are finding their depression and anxiety symptoms have worsened, alcoholics have been drinking more at home, our elderly have become used to being isolated and some may not wish to venture out again and our young people are grieving the rite of passage experiences they missed out on since March 2020. The Irish divorce rate is at its highest ever and I would expect it will climb over the coming years when couples have been living under enormous stress.
So, what can we do about this mental health pandemic?
How can we support each other?
We need to be honest with ourselves and then with our loved ones about what we have been feeling and the psychological fallout of the lockdown experience on our lives.
Unprocessed and unexpressed feelings are the ones that cause us harm long term. In the same way that stagnant water is ripe for disease, stagnant emotions cause us long-term issues.
Expressing these feelings is the path to health and emotional resiliency.
If you were to be honest with yourself right now by checking in with how you are coping emotionally and psychologically, notice what comes up for you.
What kind of support do you need right now physically and emotionally?
Who can you open up to for non-judgmental support so your feelings can be acknowledged?
There is a collective trauma we will all have to process at some stage whether it is acknowledged or not.
Isolation and loneliness have enormous impact on our wellbeing and have been well researched.
Those that say 'well, we were/ are all in the same boat' and dismiss your feelings simply have not acknowledged their own feelings and trauma.
This is the time to allow yourself to feel, process and express your experiences in a supportive environment.
Many people find they also get relief from writing down their feelings in a diary or journal.
Others enjoy creative ways of expressing their feelings through poetry, art, writing music.
The important thing is that these feelings are expressed and released so you can heal and move on with living your life now.