More than 80 stories of life during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK have today been published as an anthology today by Centre for Mental Health.
Alongside the anthology of A Year in Our Lives stories, writer and health activist David Gilbert shares his reflections on what they can tell us about the mental health impacts of the pandemic in Reaching Inland.
The two volumes create a unique record of the ways the pandemic has affected people’s mental health. Unlike conventional surveys, A Year in Our Lives tells the real story of how Covid-19 created shock, grief, fear and worry for people nationwide. It tells of the ways people have sought to maintain their mental health under intense pressure, and how people living with mental health difficulties coped with the lockdowns and anxieties created by the pandemic.
Reaching inland traces the key themes in the stories and what we can learn from them in dealing with the aftermath from the pandemic and preparing for future emergencies. They identify how shock and fear, anger and loneliness were mixed with courage, hope and gratitude during 2020 and early 2021. Amid the suffering, many found new ways to cope and made changes to their lives in the most difficult circumstances.
Author of Reaching inland David Gilbert said: “Covid has been an enormous invisible pressure on our bodies, minds and souls. A pandemic is not a war with an obvious enemy, that we can fight or flee from. It is insidious and grinding, seeping through cracks in our protective and defensive mechanisms. It has revealed us at our most raw – vulnerable, courageous, terrified and beautiful.
“It has been a privilege to read these accounts. And I want to acknowledge the courage and craft of those who have written them. I hope you will be inspired to read them all for yourself. This is a unique collection – here are people not ordinarily heard.”
Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “A Year in Our Lives shows that insights from creative writing can be just as powerful as traditional types of evidence. As the Public Inquiry into the pandemic draws closer, A Year in Our Lives and Reaching inland provide a vital foundation for understanding the mental health impacts of Covid-19 from people who have been through it themselves. We want to thank everyone who generously and powerfully shared their stories with us for this ground-breaking project.”