I think the pandemic has taught some of us more empathy
Police officer working in London
This year we’re working with Mind’s Blue Light programme to support the mental health of the UK’s emergency services, and to share stories of their experiences during the pandemic.
I’m Kiwi, and I joined the police force in 2012 – just after I was diagnosed with leukemia. I literally went from cancer to copper! Right now, I am working within the Youth Engagement team, supporting frontline officers to improve their approach to younger people.
I have had some tough experiences in the past – I had a major breakdown in 2015, in part because of my illness, my divorce, and going through sixin just seven months. But, when it came to work, I felt like I was able to just “get on with it” and luckily haven’t experienced any seriously on the job.
I’m an extrovert, and it was hard to adjust
However, when the pandemic began, things changed. Because of my history of leukaemia, I was told I was clinically vulnerable, and I needed to shield. This meant staying at home, and not seeing any family or friends at all even when restrictions were lighter. My work has changed too – instead of meeting people face-to-face, I am now. This had a big impact on my mental health – just not having that connection with others affected me. I’m an extrovert, and it was hard to adjust to this new way of living.
I was worried that I might end up usingas a crutch to get through this difficult time. It’s a problem I have experienced in the past. And so, I made a conscious effort to avoid drinking too much. I still enjoy a beer, but I know your alcohol consumption can rise when you’re in a challenging situation. It can help numb the pain in the short-term, but it’s much worse for you in the long run, so I was determined not to fall into that trap.
Instead, I decided to focus on my. I picked some goals to work towards, like the 2.6 challenge. This encourages you to take part in an activity you enjoy while raising money for charity. You don’t need to be a big strong person who goes to the gym and bench presses 200 kilos to be able to enjoy fitness – for some people, just standing up from their chair and sitting down again could be exercise.
We’re going to find some things difficult and awkward
When it comes to returning to normal, I think it’s important to remember that being social is a skill. And, like any skill, while we’ve not been using it, we might be out of practice when we go back out into the world. I think of it like being an Olympic athlete: if you ran the 800 metres and set a world record, but then went home and sat on your sofa for a year, you’re not going to be able to jump up and run just as fast again straight away. It’s going to be the same when we start going back out into the world and seeing people again. We’re going to find some things difficult and awkward, but that’s okay.
Photo from City of London Police
In some ways, I think the pandemic has taught some of us more empathy. Before, if someone with a lot of money was feeling lonely or bored, they could plan a nice holiday or go out to a restaurant. But the coronavirus has levelled the playing field, and people are understanding what it is like when you can’t do all the fun things you enjoy. Some people were able to use their money to fill voids in their life, but now they see and understand loneliness andthat they might not have done before. I hope this leads to more compassion for others going forward.
If the issues in this article feel familiar, we hope you’ll share it with colleagues, friends or family to help us spread awareness of the reality of life for emergency responders – and to encourage colleagues to seek help when they need it.