These challenging times

These are very challenging times indeed – and from the hoarding of scarce necessities to amazing acts of kindness and compassion, it feels like we have seen both the best and worst of people over the last few weeks. I have lived on my street for 25 years and, until the last fortnight, would not have had a clue as to who lived at the other end of it. The last few weeks have been humbling in terms of the sense of community that has developed. A street WhatsApp group sprung up containing offers of help – shopping, deliveries, the sharing of food and essential items, keeping in touch with the ill and self-isolating and fundamentally looking after each other in a way we would never have done before. Hopefully this imprint of community connection and support will last long after Covid 19 has been kicked to the touchline.

This also made me reflect on the key messages I took from attending the Grassroots ASIST suicide prevention training last year. Fundamental to this training is the message that suicide is everybody’s business. We all have a responsibility to notice, care and respond when things don’t look quite right for someone else. Part of being able to take action is about recognising the internal messages that can make it easy to swerve actually doing something to help e.g. the “ I am sure someone else will do something” or “I better not ask in case it makes it worse…” or “I am sure they are OK really, I don’t want to offend” or “What if I’ve got it wrong”.

Undertaking the ASIST training means learning to ask simple and courageous questions. It means learning to ask someone directly if they are thinking about suicide and giving permission for someone to honestly say where they are at and how they are feeling. It is about noticing, asking and really listening. It is only by recognising and acknowledging the elephant in the room that we can look it in the face, see what type of elephant it is and know whether he, she or they need any help and support.

These are unprecedented times and many people will be even more isolated at home with the very stressors that make life challenging. For those of us who can, let’s make sure we reach out and connect. If you can’t go out, let someone know you are thinking of them, give them a call, send them some words, emoticon or a poem or make them a playlist. If you can go out, offer to shop, walk a dog, pick up prescriptions etc. This could be an opportunity to make a kinder and braver world – let’s hope we can seize it. Stay safe everyone  J.

Meanwhile, stolen from the inspiration of the daily horoscope page – here is a poem which looks at a better type of infection  – infectious smiles!

– Kate Simblet

Smiling is Infectious

by Spike Milligan

​​Smiling is infectious,
​you catch it like the flu,​
When someone smiled at me today,
​I started smiling too.​

I passed around the corner​
And someone saw my grin.​
When he smiled I realised
​I’d passed it on to him.

​I thought about that smile,
​then I realised its worth.
​A single smile, just like mine
​could travel round the earth.

​So, if you feel a smile begin,​
don’t leave it undetected.
​Let’s start an epidemic quick,
​and get the world infected!