It was Mental Health Awareness Week last week. I’m always aware of mental health — I worked in the field for years — but last week (and indeed this week, and who knows for how long) our pandemical troubles make it important that we’re all aware of it. It’s not just physical health that has been at risk, but the inextricably connected mental side. We probably all know people who are suffering grief after losing a member of their family, people who are struggling financially, or with loneliness; and for key workers, there is the stress associated with working in intensive care or in care homes. Terrible.
Last week, I saw a report in the newspaper by a psychiatrist saying there would be a tsunami of mental health referrals after the physical problems have been controlled. The word “tsunami” really hit me, having recently seen a film of the Japanese event in 2011 in which over 200,000 people were killed. And by a weird coincidence, I had just chosen for my choir a song (called “A Flower Remembered”) that was written by John Rutter in memory of the victims of that tsunami. The song is essentially about how we deal with grief, concluding with: “All things must pass but memories are lasting. We will remember”.
The feel of the song in melody and harmony is beautiful but I confess to feeling that I’m not sure that Rutter (who wrote the words as well as the music) has got it entirely right. Memories can be consoling but they can also hurt – the person you love will not come back, and memory is not the same as reality. And it’s not just the tragedy of deaths that we need to remember; we also need to feel for survivors who might still be struggling to rebuild their lives having experienced something totally out of their control that washed away their previous lives.
Nevertheless, the song is calming and comforting and I think will be lovely for us to sing when we finally get together again. Music helps – the reason for the charity aiming to support those in our local community going through these troubled times.