As I write this, last week we had Mental Health Awareness Week and Ascension Day coincide. They may at first glance appear to have very little in common. Although, the message around Coronavirus has changed from ‘Stay at Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’ it still means many people are still staying at home and remaining isolated. From an infection control point of view, being in isolation is the best place because you cannot catch or pass on the infection if you are isolated. From a Mental Health perspective, being isolated and lonely is not healthy and likely to make things worse. These two factors are almost in direct conflict. It is why it has been so important for people to be in contact with family and friends through telephone calls, video calls, emails and sharing photos. It helps people not to feel isolated and alone. Our mental health is affected by many different factors, namely our ability to remain in contact with family and friends; our life situation, if we are under pressure or distress by our finances or employment / unemployment. We may be in a crisis caused by the loss of a close relation; we may be losing our housing or our physical health be deteriorating. These are just a few examples, there are many more, it shows often how complicated it can be. We should be encouraged that people can admit that things are not going well and they are struggling. Are we ready to respond positively when we ask the question “Are you alright?” and the answer is not “I am fine”. We need to care, to listen, to offer help and support rather than exchange pleasantries. It seems now more than any other time there will be a lot of people who are not alright. We need to support people in the way we want to be helped when we are struggling.
Ascension Day was both exciting and worrying. The disciples saw Jesus ascend to heaven but then they are on their own, isolated and the world feels intimidating. They are isolated on a mountain top and they see angels. But the reality is that they have to go back to Jerusalem and be ready to do God’s work. You cannot isolate yourself forever, at some point you have to engage in the world and get on with the things that you need to do. The disciples would have felt very inadequate without Jesus being present with them. Yet, Jesus promises that God would be with them helping and encouraging them. The same is true for each of us.
As we learn how God views every one of us with great value and importance, we should do likewise and value the people around us. It may be we have to reconnect with people we have lost touch with or take the time to stop and listen and help someone who feels isolated or lonely. We can all make a difference if we try to help others.
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) firstname.lastname@example.org