Where can you turn to if you are feeling low?

I have had a week to myself.

Check on those who you haven't heard from in a while - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

You can’t have failed to notice that it’s the Christmas season. We’re surrounded by lights, endless adverts for stuff you didn’t know you wanted and aisles full of heart-attack-inducing goodies in the supermarkets. 

If you’ve got little ones at home or you’re just a real Christmas lover, it’s one of the best times of the year. However, for many of us, the relentless pressure to either spend money or enjoy ourselves is in distinct contrast to what’s going on inside our heads. This year more than ever, our collective mental health has taken a battering. And just when we thought it was safe to take off our masks and feel optimistic about our lives, that awful virus throws in a plot twist with a new variant to send us back to (almost) square one. At least that’s what it can feel like. 

In the last month, I’ve had conversation after conversation with friends and family and it’s clear that many of us are struggling. I feel privileged that people feel able to share how they feel with me and it’s made me realise how important talking is when we’re feeling low. But many people don’t know who to talk to; many people find it too difficult to open up. I think — in fact, I know — that low mood and depression make it very difficult to talk at all. I’m no expert on mental health at all but I can use this column to shine a light on the help that’s out there. If you’re worried about your mental health, obviously your GP is a great starting point. A search of mental health on a computer will also bring up helpline numbers and websites with lots of information and ways of reaching out; Mind and Samaritans are good starting points. There is also a charity called Shout who operate a free text service on 85258. You can text any time day or night, and messages are confidential and anonymous.

It’s really important to recognise that young people’s mental health is very fragile too. If you are a young person there is support dedicated to you. The website kooth.com has a webchat, discussion boards and links to crisis services. Locally we also have a fantastic Youth Service which runs from The Hive. Not many young people know that you can self-refer to the team who will support you however they can. To speak to a Youth Worker have a look at the SPACE (Devon Youth Service) website https://www.spaceyouthservices.org/need-a-chat or message a youth worker via Instagram at @exmouthspace.

Can we also make an agreement here and now, to reach out to those friends you maybe haven’t heard from in a while just to see how they are? We are all guilty of getting stuck in our own reality particularly at this busy time of year. But you never know, your phone call, text or letter could be a lifeline for someone you know. And if that’s not what Christmas should really be about, I don’t know what is.