Stories about the nation’s mental health during a global pandemic

This month, Centre for Mental Health will be launching A Year in Our Lives 2020, a new project to share people’s accounts of living through the coronavirus outbreak and what it has meant for their mental health.

The coronavirus pandemic is a physical health emergency on a global scale, such as we have never seen in our lifetimes. But it is also a mental health emergency. Both the coronavirus illness itself, and the measures governments have had to take to contain it, are placing enormous stress on people’s emotional health and wellbeing. It is vital we understand that from the perspectives of the people who are living through it: us. And we want to find creative, truthful and open ways to tell the story of 2020 alongside the many surveys and academic studies that are already taking place.

We want to hear your stories. We want to know how coronavirus and the sudden changes to our lives have affected your mental health. Whether you have had a mental health difficulty before or not, whatever age you are, wherever you are from, we want to know about the ways the crisis is affecting your mental health and how you are responding to that.

We will be asking anyone with a story to tell to share their narrative of 2020 with us. We will shortly share details of how you can send us your story. We will publish the stories that we receive, with the option of anonymity online for anyone who would prefer that. We will review stories before publishing and may not be able to publish all stories (in part or in full).

We will also be analysing the stories we receive to look at what they tell us about how coronavirus is changing our mental health and how our mental health links to the ways we are experiencing the changes to the world around us.

The project is based on the successful Day in the Life initiative, led by Social Spider CIC in 2014. It asked people to write a diary entry on four days during that year about their mental health. At its conclusion, Centre for Mental Health carried out a content and textual analysis of the narratives to identify key issues emerging from people’s stories and to explore any demographic differences. By crowdsourcing qualitative data about people’s mental health, unmediated by survey questions or researchers’ assumptions, A Day in the Life managed to get beneath the surface and draw out a richer picture of the lives of people with a mental illness than was possible before. The project was led by Mark Brown, who later became Centre for Mental Health’s first Writer in Residence.

We will work with writers, artists and experts by experience in the mental health field to support A Year in Our Lives 2020 as an extension of our Writer in Residence scheme. And we will reach out to communities whose voices are less often heard in mainstream policy debates to ensure we produce a truly diverse set of stories with analysis that draws from real life and that makes a difference.

We hope that our Year in the Life 2020 project will bring a deeper understanding to the mental health challenges of living through the coronavirus pandemic and provide important insights to help to support people to recover from this global trauma.


Image by Thom Holmes on Unsplash