John Hancox (left) of Mental Health Mallorca.

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Living through the Covid pandemic has had a severe impact on people’s mental health and well-being. Restricted movement, loss and isolation have led to increases in depression, anxiety disorders, stress and sleep disorders. And as we slowly begin to emerge from the pandemic, caring for our mental health and well-being is going to be more important than ever for many.

Palma-based British counsellor and former welfare officer, John Hancox, works with a specialist team at Mental Health Mallorca, which was formed last February.

John and his colleagues had been planning to open the centre long before the pandemic but decided to bring events forward because of Covid and the impact it was having, and is continuing to have, on people’s mental health and well-being.

John trained at the University of Sheffield before going on to work as a counsellor and welfare officer in the UK. He then moved to work in New Zealand before arriving in Mallorca four years ago. He is now part of the highly professional team at Mental Health Mallorca.

“The idea had been on the drawing board for quite a long time before the pandemic struck. But when it did, we decided to move because we could see what was going to happen to people’s mental health and well-being. We are a multidisciplinary centre, mainly English-speaking, and our whole team is registered, qualified and certified, so rest assured you will receive the very best sessions and discretion is 100% assured.

“We cater for all ages from children through to adults, even seniors. We not only offer face-to-face coaching, support, guidance and help, but this is also across all of the social media platforms.

“These past few years have been extremely challenging for us as professionals and obviously the general public. We have all been thrown into a situation none of us had experienced before, or could even contemplate, and we are not out of the woods yet. I think the biggest problem has been uncertainty. On the one hand, the consequences of the pandemic have brought out underlying mental health problems that may have already been lingering. On the other, there are fresh ones. We have, and are, seeing an increase in problems with anxiety, stress and worry, with people opting to self-medicate instead of approaching a centre or professionals like ourselves. And self-medicating, be it turning to alcohol or medication, is not the answer.

“You will not find the answer to any problems in the bottom of a bottle. In fact, that will lead to even more complications and issues further down the line. And what is important to highlight is that not all of these mental health issues are long term. If they are caught early, they can be nipped in the bud before they spiral out of control.

“One thing we have noticed is that the pandemic has placed a lot of stress on relationships, be they marital or within the family environment in general. People losing their jobs, pay cuts, being stuck at home, remote working. These are all hurdles which can have a negative impact on people’s mental health and well-being.

“We’ve taken our physical well-being seriously for years, but just because we may be physically fit and healthy, it does not mean that we are mentally fit and healthy.

“If one good thing has come out of the pandemic it is that the stigma surrounding mental health has been lifted. The fact that leading professional sporting icons, for example, are speaking out more about their mental health issues and explaining what they are going through and why has also helped people a great deal with regard to recognising they have, or might have, a mental health issue and to coming forward and talking about it.

“Since the pandemic struck, our routines have been broken. A certain amount of disorder has come into our lives and no one knows what is going to happen next, and that applies to all ages. Take young children for example. Five and six-year-olds have been in school with masks on for the past two years. It will interesting to see how they react once masks are lifted, once the new norm is established. This could pose a serious challenge for many people.

“But like I said, it could only be short term. It is crucial to recognise early on that one has a potential problem or is feeling overwhelmed by the whole thing, or anything and to whatever level, and seek professional support, coaching and guidance like the services we offer at Mallorca Mental Health.

“Yes, there are people suffering from long-term depressions, but that does not mean they are depressed every day. They will have good days and bad, and one thing I always like to get across to people is that simply asking a friend or work colleague if they are ok is not enough.

“That is a closed question and the answer will either be yes or no - end of conversation. What we should be asking people is how are they feeling, as we are then opening up the possibility for a conversation and being able to help people around us more.

“For many, our whole life cycle has been thrown off balance more than ever over the past few years, and no one should feel ashamed of admitting they have, or may have, a mental health issue. Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical condition, if not more so.

“So we are all pleased that more and more people are no longer worried about being labelled as having a mental health issue and that society is more open and welcoming for people to talk about it.

“That stigma has been a huge restraint on tackling mental health issues for decades. It could be post-traumatic stress in the military, which is very serious and sadly leads to very extreme results and outcomes, or it could be sudden changes in one’s daily life due to all number of causes.

“We live in a stressful environment. If you broke your arm and a friend or work colleague said that he or she could fix that with a splint and short period of recovery, you would jump at the offer. So what’s the problem with offering the same kind of support to people who may be suffering from a mental health issue which, if serious, does require professional help. We, as professionals, not only understand more about mental health, but so too does the general public and that is extremely important. It’s a massive breakthrough. Although the stigma still lingers, it’s a generational problem and will gradually disappear as we move forward and get more in tune with ourselves and those around us.

“It’s no longer a question of pulling oneself together, it’s about seeking help and not feeling ashamed. And that is what we at Mental Health Mallorca are here for.”