Can we keep the community caring after the corona crisis by Natalie Mcculloch


What an unusual and challenging few weeks it has been due to the pandemic we are all facing, and it’s not over yet sadly.

Every day we are faced with new challenges, changes to laws, potential job losses, activity losses and most terrifyingly, lives lost.

All of this has had an understandable impact on everyone, their health and well-being, financial stability and security, relationships and sense of being. It must be incredibly hard for those who have lost business, jobs, money, experiences, opportunities or even loved ones.

The effect of isolation and lockdown may have also affected people’s mental health for example. According to a study published by the Mental Health Foundation, figures show almost a quarter (24%) of all UK adults have felt lonely because of coronavirus. Further to this, the increase of anxiety for those with contamination fears or obsessional thoughts are likely to have increased for many, whilst support networks have changed or been diminished.

But, in light of all this darkness, one positive I can see, and I hope others agree, is that as a nation we have come together, as communities we have united, as people we are showing we care about each other… albeit in a socially distant way!

What do I mean by this? Can you come together from a distance? Apparently yes! People have shown true community spirit during this trying time through kind deeds, random acts of kindness, social media and generous donations. Stores have offered discounts to NHS workers, people have clapped for key workers, rainbows have popped up all over the UK, websites have been set up especially to offer/receive help from others in this trying time, people have respected (most of the time) social distancing rules and gratitude for others has been outwardly expressed. We have come together to encourage others to ‘stay safe’ and ‘stay at home’, we’ve offered support to protect others and we’ve even become a bit more community minded all round, I feel! Also, we have become more vigilant of mental health needs and numerous support networks have sprung up offering befriending on phones, helplines, podcasts or resources with the underlying message that it’s ok to say ‘I’m not ok’!”.

To me this mimics another challenging time, during World War Two. I love hearing accounts from my elderly patients, and other people of that generation, of how community spirited the war time was. They faced extremely hard, heroic and frugal times, but they got through with a song, dance and positive attitude – how? Largely it seems, because they did so together! Street parties, sharing household essentials with the neighbours, babysitting for other families, helping clean each other’s houses, are just some of the wonderful things I have heard, all without an alternative agenda of payment or return good deeds. Obviously these things can’t be replicated due to the need to be socially distant, but we’ve developed alternatives for this pandemic as fore mentioned. I often ask the patients, ‘What went wrong?’ ‘Why, or when, did society become so selfish and stop that community spirit?’ The answer is usually that they don’t know but that it’s a great shame.

It’s been so nice to see people helping one another, people understanding others needs, people offering to pick up items in shops for others or walk others dogs. Is this not a more pleasant world to live in, in that sense?

My query is, will this end? Or more importantly, how can we stop it ending? So, perhaps during these darker days, as a nation, we can come together to create strategies to keep the community spirit alive. This time will pass, we will get through this, but perhaps, in an odd way, our future can be brighter due to it also? How can we do this? Answers on a postcard anyone….?