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Down the rabbit hole

June 01 2022
@ Chris Bird @ Chris Bird

Things can get overwhelming on this big rock called Earth, particularly when experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. Our writer sees where systems need improving, and shares tips on how to step back and move forward in life. By Leon Eckford

Welcome to Wonderland, where my quest for knowledge leaves me endlessly searching for new ideas, innovation and existing research on understanding the fabric of my reality and how I navigate it in practical terms.

If I peer into the looking glass, I think I’m trying to understand the brain, what makes us human and how we manage our self during the ultimate Willy Wonka golden ticket that is life. This is a personal journey, just as a disclaimer. You can only live your journey, so this offering is through my tiny slither of perception in what is a rather large universe.

When I think of the journey through the rabbit hole, I look externally, I see fear and panic beamed at me on 24 hour news, if I want it. I’ve got YouTube telling me what I like and what I don’t like. Facebook feeds my negativity and my cute cat video cravings. I’ve got Amazon Prime, Gorilla food deliveries, I can work from home, where I can fill my head constantly to avoid the underlying existential crises. I’m talking war, sex, lies and betrayal in politics, pending cost of living crisis, no affordable housing, corrupt officiating, essential services cuts and, and, and, and… Television is the opium of the masses, said someone a lot smarter than me.

Is society merely a collection of social norms which we abuse and use to our own advantage dependent on where we are born? Have I created my own personal tea party, where I’m both the King and Queen of Hearts engaged in just about manageable chaos, in the face of crippling existential fear? Yes, we’re going deep. I’m asking myself, directly. With no answer in place.

For me, I manage my mental health specific to this external content by generally disengaging with it all. I’ve deleted my social media, hardly watch TV and only check sports highlights on YouTube. Your brain processes this content and you have to manage an emotional response. As a consequence, if your content is negative, the emotion is going to match.

Internally, my rabbit hole is pretty much the same as yours. I experience grief and loss, growth and development, love and harmony but also guilt, sadness, regret, hope, inspiration and the complete gambit of emotions that we all go through. It’s a tough ask, and the only thing that separates me from people I work with in my homeless outreach work is I’ve got enough coping mechanisms, enough support around me to walk through life without fear and anxiety suffocating me completely.

We all adopt depressive states and hyper sensitive reactions from time to time, whether it be having a panic attack at losing the keys, or engaging in shouting matches on the morning commute. Anybody who doesn’t know what anxiety feels like is telling you lies. On an individual level, the statistics around mental health in England are notoriously incomplete, unreported and generally really difficult to get an accurate handle on. The numbers are in and the evidence is clear: nobody really has a clue about how many people are actually untreated, undiagnosed and walking about unwell.

There are some really concerning patterns around rising suicides across the board, with a spike in under 25s adding to this, suicidal thoughts reporting increasing, self-harming rising and a wider conversation developing around personality disorder and schizophrenia diagnosis, causing real concern from a research and treatment perspective.

On the streets of Tower Hamlets, we see untreated disorders every day. A constant stream of undiagnosed individuals lost in gaps between substance misuse treatment and consistent mental health treatment.

Live clean, eat correctly, engage in physical activity, find meaning in your days, reconnect with nature, nurture your support networks and your close relationships and remember to lift your head and look at the stars. Talk to people you don’t know, pay kindness forward, love your neighbours and let’s try to foster an environment of compassion, love and genuine connectivity.

And also, we need to accept that we’re in a unique situation as one human being, being part of a sevenbillion-plus strong species on a planet circling a star. If you genuinely think about that, it's a mad rabbit hole.