Pressure to put on ‘brave face’ could risk mental health – charity

Pressure to “put on a brave face” during the coronavirus outbreak could put people at a “much greater risk” of seeing their mental health deteriorate, a suicide prevention charity said.

Joy Hibbins, the founder of Suicide Crisis, said social isolation risks people becoming detached and disconnected, and could plunge someone with depression “deeper into crisis”.

Lockdown measures may also be particularly difficult for people dealing with past traumas, as they may replicate aspects of the original experience, such as feeling trapped or a loss of control, she said.

As the nation comes to terms with the multiple pressures and anxieties around Covid-19, she fears many people are “feeling under pressure to put on a brave face” so they do not “bring down” others.

But she warns that suppressing or internalising emotions could build up to an “intolerable level”, putting people at an increased risk of suicide, self harm and overall deterioration of their mental health.

She said: “We are urged to share positive images and messages on social media ‘to counteract the negativity’ – and this is very important and therapeutic.

“But I would also like to see people feeling able to post on social media phrases like ‘I am feeling afraid’ or ‘I am feeling trapped’ so that friends can respond supportively – and can encourage or ensure that they can access help.

“I think many of us feel that we will be adding to the negativity if we post or say what we are really feeling.

“That worries me. It leads to our internalising our painful emotions, which can place us at much greater risk.”

Suicide Crisis is continuing to provide a service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is currently supporting around 25 people at its Suicide Crisis Centre in Cheltenham.

Ms Hibbins acknowledged the coming weeks could be the “most challenging” they have faced.

She continued: “I worry that what we are seeing in the first 10 days will be magnified many times over in the coming weeks. I see this as just the beginning.

“We have to prepare for the mental health crisis which may occur.

“We need more recognition of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on people’s mental health, and more reassurance about what is being done to alleviate their distress.”

Ms Hibbins is encouraging people to “do everything you can to keep connected with everyone you know, because some of the people you know will be vulnerable”.

Other suicide prevention charities have urged people to seek help if they feel at risk.

The charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), has seen a 37% increase in demand for its services during the pandemic.

It said many people contacting the service are feeling a sense of fear and anxiety including around social distancing, finances and their health.

PAPYRUS, a charity for the prevention of young suicide, has produced an online guide to help young people affected by the cancellation of their exams and an uncertain future.

It urges young people to get in touch through its online and phone HOPELINEUK service.