Mental health matters

We are living through an unprecedented time in global history. The coronavirus pandemic has hit every industry, and – this is not news to any of you – publishing is no exception.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, the theme is ‘kindness’, chosen because we need to reach out to those around us, strengthen relationships, develop community and deepen solidarity in these challenging times.

As Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said, ‘Protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.’

Worryingly, a recent study across a number of countries showed 67% of people had higher levels of stress since the outbreak, 54% said they were emotionally exhausted and 53% said they feel sadness day to day.

As publishers, booksellers, writers, readers and citizens, we are living in a climate of isolation, fear, uncertainty and loss, and as we come out of lockdown and try to return to normal life, more people than ever will be struggling with their mental health.

So how do we support each other at work and in our day to day lives?

Our collective responsibility is to nurture a sense of safety, community, resilience and support in our organisations and our industry.  COVID-19 has meant we have had to quickly respond to new ways of working, putting an even greater importance on nurturing connection, being empathetic and listening to our colleagues amongst many other things. Our next challenge will be finding new ways to sustain that support, investing in initiatives to help us share more, whether it be via storytelling, new online platforms, information resources or in person support.

At Trigger, our purpose has never been clearer. We are a publisher and an organization dedicated to opening up the conversation around mental health and wellbeing for everyone – our employees and our industry included. Publishing books remains our core business, but this is driven now more than ever by the needs of readers. Our sister companies, Shaw Mind and Everymind, support these same needs, the former offering community support via its charitable works and mental health training programmes; the latter via its innovative mental health app for workplaces. COVID-19 has helped to push the parts of our business closer together, positively forcing us to work more collaboratively. We have all seen examples of greater levels of collaboration and kindness throughout our industry and we hope this will be a sustained trend.

The silver lining, perhaps, is that this crisis might free us up to talk more openly about our own mental health with professionals, at home, with friends, in our families and at work.

So how might the pandemic change what we read?

As the mental health conversation becomes more open, we have shifted our acquisitions focus to  publish books for the whole family and for any situation, with our entire programme putting mental health and wellbeing at is core.  Yes, we have books covering crisis issues such as loss, stress, anxiety and loneliness, but we are also expanding our list to publish more titles on wellbeing and spirituality as people search for positive ways to recalibrate their work styles, their lifestyles, and reframe their personal mission. It will not just be adults that feel the impact of this crisis; our children will also need our support more than ever. Our Upside Down Books imprint is publishing books on themes of mindfulness, anxiety, feelings and grief. The list was established to create books that help children learn how to describe, cope and thrive with their wide-ranging feelings, with the hope that children will grow up facing their issues head-on. Now that seems even more necessary.

With kindness, empathy and connection becoming more important than ever, we have been working with our authors to create some top tips for mental health awareness week. Here are our top five.

Step away from the news

It’s important to stay up to date with the latest government guidelines on how to stay safe, but you don’t need to know the ins and outs of every tiny detail about this challenging time.

Let go of perfection

Many of you will be overwhelmed with keeping on top of work, homeschooling and staying well both physically and mentally – there is no way any of us can be as productive as we were before. Allow yourself to accept this.

Take a break

If you are working from home working hours can creep up. And with many companies struggling and furloughing staff, you may have an increased workload. Try to schedule in breaks every couple of hours.

Set yourself a goal

For those of you who may have been furloughed, or are not currently working, days in lockdown can seem very long and it can feel unsettling not to have a purpose, so set yourself some simple goals for each day.  

Be kinder to yourself

With the disruption of so many areas of life at the moment, it can be hard not to focus on everything that is wrong or that you are not doing. But remember, we are all coping under extremely challenging circumstances, this is not business as usual.

As we gradually come out of lockdown, people everywhere are worrying about their own wellbeing and also their families, friends and colleagues.  Books will be the salve and guide we need to help us navigate the challenges ahead.  It is looking like this crisis might actually bring us closer together. Could we see some positive long-term effects once lockdown lifts?

We certainly hope so.