Mental Health: Change of words.
Updated: Apr 30
Hello there, hope as you read this you are well and doing okay.
As you may or may not know, one of my many passions is the lifting of the Stigma that is Mental Health and Mental Illness. Both of course different but interlocked as we know.
What this pandemic has reminded me is our common link as JFK most famously said:
“Let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air.
We all cherish our children's future & we are all mortal.”
I still firmly believe in these words. But however we must keep firmly in our minds that we are not truly equal as this crisis has also shown. That while the virus may not tell the difference, for many in our community this pandemic has hit home even harder, we have much to do.
In terms of Mental Health, as we know the famous stat of recent years is that 1 in 4 of us will be affected by some form of it. Many of us as we know overcome this with good support, mindfulness and the inbuilt ability to fight, much like our bodies immune system with viruses.
However many have to live with their personal mental health much like asthmatics deal with their asthma, or diabetics with their diabetes or spurs fans with the longterm suffering of not winning a trophy now or in many years to come. And yes before you say it, I am a Spurs fan.
Now more than ever, words really matter, kindness to others and the sincere expression of compassion to those who need it most, is really more important. We can't fix all the problems but we can fix a lot of together and that in turn can help support those personal battles we all face. We are seeing the best of people on the ground and that should make us all proud.
Change of words - Physical Distancing/Social Distancing
A couple of weeks ago the World Health Organisation through their press briefing on March 20th Dr Maria Van Kerkhove confirmed they had made a change to their use of the term of Social Distancing:
If I can just add, you may have heard us use the phrase physical distancing instead of social distancing and one of the things to highlight in what Mike was saying about keeping the physical distance from people so that we can prevent the virus from transferring to one another; that's absolutely essential. But it doesn't mean that socially we have to disconnect from our loved ones, from our family.
Technology right now has advanced so greatly that we can keep connected in many ways without actually physically being in the same room or physically being in the same space with people so as the DG highlighted in his speech a lot about this is - we say social distancing.
We're changing to say physical distance and that's on purpose because we want people to still remain connected.
I totally agree with this subtle change of wording for many reasons. But carefully is the key.
As someone who believes in effective communication, that a switch in terminology so far into the current pandemic could go against one of the main principles of effective risk communication, and to ensure there is clarity & consistency in messaging. Especially now.
But as ever with hindsight it’s a better phrase to be using as social distancing is not so true.
It’s crucial we slow and manage the transmission rate of COVID19 while protecting the most vulnerable from catching it, the elderly & those with underlying medical conditions. But it’s becoming clear until an effective use of drugs and a vaccine become available there is going to have to be measures in place as we lift the lockdown in stages. This will change in time.
Physical distancing is going to remain part of our lives for a time while the government enhances the ability to increase "test, trace & isolate" the virus so they can manage it.
I think as we see a subtle change from our medical and clinical experts especially in mental health using this phrasing when supporting those who need it, it will have the desired effect. And goes for all of us as well. Which is why I'm going to be using it more when & where I can
As we all know the main way people have been able to communicate ironically is via “social media” zoom and other online platforms have been a lifeline to families and those caring for people. As I’ve mentioned it’s so important to remain physically separate but socially connected. That’s for me the key message. Not everyone reacts well to physical contact, depending on their own personal situations for example also. But for many social is key.
Having a connection with someone, especially in the world of physical and mental care is so important and many will be feeling that loss more than others. Some will take the cue to be social distant and that’s not good. The importance of being more kind and reaching out is invaluable right now. Online abuse has been one of the biggest downsides to our ability to be more connected. Not to mention the situation of those in abusive relationships at home.
So in conclusion, as ever we should take our lead from the experts and if Dr Muscat came forward to advise in his role of the medical officer to government or the head of mental health then I would fully support them in us all using the term and changing social distancing as a phrase we all have become so accustomed to physical distancing. While folk use it subtly
There will be many lessons to learn from this crisis. There are many for us here in Jersey.
But I’m glad to see more and more people realising and talking about the importance of what we’ve been promoting on improving mental health services and that Mental Health should be taken as serious as physical health and the way we all need to take time on ourselves.
But we’ve got a long way to go yet. It can be used still sadly for some as a tool to seek something else, we have to be mindful of that. Right now we are more embraced with Mental Health and what support is now available is very different to a few years ago. We still need to seek better I am afraid, the Jersey Mental Health Service is propped up by amazing staff but they need and our loved ones need so much more. A fit for purpose facility, a better funded and co-ordinated strategy and many things put in place to support those who need it 24/7.
Those things will come as we continue to bring out the best of each other, to challenge what seems wrong, but equally bring forward constructive ideas that invigorate and take us forward. I have every faith as much as I have the will and firepower in my belly to do all I can.
So please remain safe but reach out. Physical distancing is a tool to help us save lives and move forward and it's a journey not the destination. You are not alone. You will be okay.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for what you are doing.