To ensure lockdown didn’t lead to breakdown, Caterham resident Sam Lee-Tracy used his experiences with anxiety and OCD to set up mental health support group ‘Mentality’ at the beginning of lockdown.
After living with both conditions since the age of 18, Sam spent time researching causes and treatments before realising his knowledge could benefit others.
Sam says: “I wanted what I’d been through to have meaning, to create something that could help people reduce or stop their own suffering.”
He reached out to friends, asking if any were interested in starting a Facebook group that would encourage men to overcome the stigma of asking for help with their mental health. The five that came forward brought wide-ranging skills to Mentality, as well as insights gained from overcoming their own challenges.
Soon after this, somebody Sam already knew – who had been dealing with anxiety and addiction – suffered a drug-related psychotic episode.
Mentality visited him: “We’re not therapists but we listened, which is what he needed. We gently encouraged him back from a negative place. He has since worked hard to turn his life around, and is now a core member of our group.”
Help for all
Mentality was originally founded with men in mind but in recent weeks three women have joined Sam’s team, broadening their offered support. They are contactable via Facebook and phone, and direct people to professionals support, if necessary.
Mentality’s primary aim is to drive down adverse mental health issues by increasing awareness: they hold fitness classes, organised a Golf Day, and are in preparations for a ‘Waterloo to Westerham Walk and Talk’ event. There are future plans for charity registration, as well as speaking in schools.
Sam thinks Mentality is more than just a support group: “It’s about community, being surrounded by like-minded people who want to help others. In today’s society it’s easy to feel nobody cares, but everybody should be able to speak openly about their mental health and we’re here for them when they do.”
Mentality is on Facebook @mentalitygroup.org.
Support through exercise
Fortitude Martial Arts Academy Taekwon-Do instructor Mark Harrold also used social media to ensure his students maintained strong mental resilience throughout their isolation.
“My club, covering Caterham and Coulsdon, usually trains at the Oasis Academy but moved to Zoom lessons when lockdown began.
I used my Facebook page to continue the engagement, and to provide support for anyone finding things difficult. We know the benefits exercise has on your body and mind, so my ‘Corona Challenge’ was designed to keep you physically and mentally healthy. It started with a single exercise on Day 1 and built to a 35-minute routine on Day 50. The feedback was great, and there were lots of videos posted of people joining in!”
The Academy marked May’s National Mental Health Week with ’25 press-ups for 25 days’, which Mark combined with instructive punch bag sessions and positive messages.
Then came ’30 for 30’, with the instructor’s videoing themselves completing 30 repetitions of a different exercise each day. Mark focused on encouraging his audience to try new things and stick with a regular fitness regime.
The easing of restrictions allowed Mark to restart Taekwon-Do training in socially distanced classes at Kenley Memorial Hall from the beginning of August, but he is still committed to his online group.
“Training online together has developed into strong friendships. Our members have felt comfortable enough to share stories of mental health problems, and we supported those who were struggling. But these issues won’t disappear just because things are returning to normal, so I’m looking for other things we can do. An initiative we are starting on 1 September is ‘0-30’, encouraging kids to practise press-ups, building up to doing 30 by day 30. We’ll also be reaching out to local schools, offering talks about the benefit of exercise on mental health.”