By Dan Jones
So here we are then, week 4 into lockdown, with all of us still sat in our homes, slightly shell-shocked, wondering how on earth life as we knew it could be turned on its head in a flash, spun around a few times, given an almighty shake and then dropped back down on our laps for us to deal with in whatever shape or form it landed.
I think we can all safely say that the situation we’re currently living in is one almighty assault on the senses.
Now I’m sorry to use the ‘C’ word, but it’s why we’re all staying in. Coronavirus – it’s a highly infectious illness that doesn’t discriminate between young and old, rich and poor, where anyone is from, the colour of their skin, their religion or faith, what car they drive, how big their house is etc.
This health issue sweeping the globe is something no average person on the street saw coming. We were all so used to living our lives in a certain way that if anyone had randomly stopped us in the street and said “you need to have a think about doing things entirely differently because you’re going to have to very soon, oh and without warning”, we wouldn’t have believed them. Not one bit.
This virus has been like hurling a huge rock into the lake at the Cold Knap, the impact spot being the immediate and serious physical health stuff for many people, with the ripples caused by that rock being the personal, social, financial and community turmoil that all of us are now attempting to surf.
The rules we’re now having to abide by have quite rightly have been put in place to protect everyone’s physical health, and while it is more than obvious as to why those rules are needed, one thing it’s highlighted is how society always instinctively focuses on this side of human wellbeing, off-setting the other half in a panic or after thought, as a not-so- hidden cost. Yes, that’s right; I’m talking about mental health.
If you are fortunate enough not to have been affected physically by Coronavirus, it will have barged its way into your life in a completely different but nevertheless destructive way.
You might be separated from your family with no idea when you will see them again. You can’t see your friends for who knows how long. You might be living alone with no-one talk to or hug. You may have lost your job. Your finances might be taking a battering because your income is no longer what it needs to be in order for you to survive.
You can’t leave your house except for a few dictated circumstances. You might be living in an environment that’s not safe and you’re scared. You might be waiting for hospital treatment. You might be disabled or managing your mental health and find the community support you rely on has suddenly stopped – the list goes on and on.
You may identify with one, a few, or all of those things I’ve just mentioned, but the common factor here when we take away whichever bits of that list you relate to, is that all of us during this time will probably experience feelings of loneliness, possibly isolation, but more than likely a sense of loss on some level.
Human beings need to have a sense of purpose, connection and belonging to survive and thrive, and what this virus has successfully managed to do in a split second, is take some, if not all, of those things away from us without any warning. How on earth can anyone prepare for that?
We all need to be together now more than ever before, so I must confess that the term ‘social distancing’ doesn’t really do it for me. We have to physically distance from each other to help prevent the spread of this virus, but that doesn’t mean we have to be socially disconnected. Now is the time for completely the opposite.
I’m a Barry-based, freelance Communications / PR specialist and have worked with many clients in the health and social care sector, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists Wales, and now currently with an NHS health board, and locally with Cardiff & Vale Well-Being. At Cardiff & Vale Well-Being, we spotted the need to keep people connected as soon as this situation began unravelling.
Off the back of the work already accomplished with the Well-Bean Cafe, Barry’s new social and community interest project (it was due to open in March but have had to postpone), overnight we set up a virtual support network that is already proving to be of huge benefit to the local community, folks across Wales and even Ireland.
The (virtual for now) Well-Bean Cafe is a Facebook group that offers wellbeing support, advice, humour, twice-daily drop-ins via Zoom for anyone out there who wants to stay connected and feel supported while this Lockdown is going on.
We’ve also begun working with a brilliant group of young people who have experienced their own mental health journeys, and are helping them produce their own online platform that will encourage their peers to creatively share experiences on.
Cardiff & Vale Well-Being is one of the many grass-roots organisations out there that are still supporting people during this incredibly challenging time, albeit remotely, and I know all are ready to welcome anyone who needs a bit of help or just simply some friendly banter.
If you’re not sure what’s available to suit or what you need, just hop on the web and have a search, but if you get stuck, then get in touch Cardiff & Vale Well-Being and someone there will be able to point you in the right direction.
I think we’ll all look back on this experience in very different ways, but the one thing that has come shining through, especially in Barry, is the sense of community spirit and an ‘old-fashioned but much needed’ sense of care and compassion towards those who are finding life difficult.
I, for one, hope this continues long into the future, and when we return to whatever is considered to be ‘normal’. Oh and one more thing before I sign off, please remember to stay connected with the ones you love. You might have to be a bit creative in how you go about it, but it’s worth it in the long run and will be the thing that gets you through this. You don’t have to feel or do any of this on your own – there’s help, support, and plenty of friendly ears out there waiting to listen as soon as you’re ready to reach out.
You are loved. You matter
Keep safe x
PS/ By staying at home, you’re protecting yourself, your family, your community and those NHS superstars. Keep doing the right thing; it won’t be forever.
Dan Jones, aka Jones The PR, is our local friendly Star War-obsessed PR / Comms Bod.
If you’d like to see what The (virtual for now) Well-Bean Cafe is all about, then please visit us here.
Thanks to Dan for writing for Mrs SVJ – the community blog of Sue Vincent-Jones. Sue is a journalist, editor, and communications specialist, who blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a quirky, and queer, girl done good.
One of Wales Arts Review 100 Women Writers of Wales, the dedicated community supporter, passionate arts lover, and award-winning queer activist, will keep you “informed, entertained and inspired.”