The Keep Talking Community Researcher team is made up of people who were involved in Get Talking Hardship in 2019 and Expert Citizens. Members of the group reflected on their experiences as community researchers and in particular reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on their community, how they work together and themselves.
Simon – Community research and hope for the future
Since having the opportunity of being involved in this project I’ve been considering poverty and hardship more often and more deeply than I usually do. In my home city of Stoke on Trent this has certainly been a concern of mine for most of my existence. Poverty and hardship have never been far from my life and it’s influence at times a massive challenge .
The place has been in decline for 4 decades from my leaving school in 1981 up to today, that’s all my adult life. Back in 81, as there is now, there was much unemployment and I guess I was lucky to find work at Silverdale Colliery.
Since then Stoke has lost all it’s major industries. The biggest type of employment, pot banks, even gave rise the area being known as The Potteries, that’s how important the manufacture of ware was to the city, pits have gone too. All this decline has left us without long term secure employment opportunities. Safe jobs have gradually disappeared until they’ve become just memories. Most factories from the time are empty crumbling reminders, ghosts haunting this once great city, simply a thing of the past. Ruined former factories, shops and warehouses are common, buildings that do little to enhance our surroundings. The city and its people have struggled long and hard, health, wealth and quality of life have inevitably suffered, declining to a level that is easily seen by even the least observant eyes. In fact, it’s shoved right into the face of locals and visitors alike, I dread to think what people’s first impressions of Stoke are. I don’t think the term Wasteland is over the top. That’s a shame because as recently as the 70s it seemed to be a vibrant future looking place.
Of course, like any city in the world, it is not all gloom. The people have a strong spirit, good humour and there are many great places. I’m grateful I have good family and friends here, the folk are well known for their good humour and friendliness.
At the moment I’m collecting all my thoughts on the matter, not focusing on statistics. I’m sure I’ll have many to come and with the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lock down I have plenty of opportunity to study statistics.
I’m anticipating my lived experience will be put to good use on this project. That will give me purpose and be of some comfort that it wasn’t all in vein. Being onboard the research team and gathering data will hopefully have some impact on turning the tide of this dreadful situation we have found ourselves in. It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to the journey with a new sense of opportunity and hope for the future.
Phil – Covid-19 and the impact on mental health
Just a few things first, in order to fully understand my meaning behind all what I’m about to say it would be beneficial to have read my previous blogs regarding my past and the reasons I think and behave as I do. Also everything I’m about to say is based on my personal thoughts and feelings I do not proclaim to be speaking for the masses but if anything I say resonates with someone and helps them its a bonus. Now to begin, this train of thought was born out of the recent Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent isolation procedures that came from that. When I was first told about having to self isolate my initial thought was a selfish one, I started panicking because the way my mental health works I self isolate when I’m bad and this only ever ends up with me getting worse until I snap out of it and eventually go into work where I’m around like minded people where I can offload and put the world to rights and start to get better. Now with all this that is happening I cannot do this so even though I’m in a good place right now, if that changes I have few options to how I get myself out of that. Added to that I am a recovering alcoholic and going into the office was one of my new coping mechanisms, one that I can no longer use. After that initial thought I started feeling extremely guilty, why was I worrying about myself when there were much greater implications to all of this. There are people getting sick and if they’re unlucky enough to be elderly and/or already of poor health it could have grave consequences. Then I started thinking about all the times I’ve felt similar to this and where it came from. With me I’m certain it came from my childhood traumas and the subsequent crippling anxiety that goes along with it. Why should I feel so guilty for putting myself first though, its only human to think about self preservation yet the guilt I felt trumped all that. I think a lot of work needs to be done with people like myself to promote their sense of self worth, the feeling that their happiness is just as important as the next persons. I am lucky enough to have a great relationship with the people I work with and they’re doing their best to keep checking on me and to keep me busy (hence this blog), but I cant help but think of all the people who’s mental health is similar to mine who may not have that sort of support in their lives. Where do they turn who do they talk to when times get hard. In my opinion a lot more needs to be done to ensure the health and well-being of everyone, especially in times like these. I sincerely hope that if one thing comes out of this when it comes to a close is that people in general will decide to be kinder. Unfortunately with the way things are going with all the panic buying and whatnot, I feel those days