In his latest column, High Peak MP Robert Largan talks about his period of self-isolation and the heavy toll the coronavirus pandemic has had on people's mental health.
Last week, I was 'pinged' by the NHS Test & Trace App and required to self-isolate for 10 days. I had no symptoms, a negative Covid test result and already had my first dose of vaccine. Nevertheless, I was still required to stay home and I believe it is important that lawmakers follow the rules so I happily played my part.
Having to isolate was frustrating as it meant I was forced to cancel my weekly help and advice surgery, as well as many other visits and meetings that I had planned. But it was also challenging, being stuck indoors for 10 days, unable to see my family or go outside for daily exercise and some fresh air. I love the outdoors and walking in our beautiful countryside is my favourite way to escape and recharge my batteries.
By the end of the 10 days of staring at my computer screen through back-to-back Zoom meetings and responding to emails, I was definitely suffering from cabin fever and counting down the minutes until I could get out and start seeing people face to face again. But 10 days is absolutely nothing compared to the awful year that so many people have had, especially those who are clinically vulnerable and those who live alone.
Last March, right at the start of lockdown, I gave a speech in Parliament about my fear of the heavy toll the pandemic would have on the nation’s mental health. The true cost of this isolation and loneliness will be impossible to measure.
The government have done what they can in near impossible circumstances to address this. Support bubbles have certainly helped. £34million has been given to organisations and charities supporting those experiencing loneliness since the start of the pandemic. The Tackling Loneliness Network was also established to bring together groups from across society to provide extra support as well.
The Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign has also done fantastic work, tackling the stigma of loneliness, starting the conversation that it is ok to feel lonely and it is ok to talk about it. You can find out more about the support available at www.letstalkloneliness.co.uk. My office in Whaley Bridge is open Monday-Friday to provide support as well.
There is no doubt that the last year has been extremely difficult for so many people. But with the vaccination programme and the roadmap to re-opening, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s all try to be more mindful of the impact the pandemic has had on people and reach out to those who might be struggling.