#AskTwice: Why now more than ever we need to really find out how people are doing – Dr Amy McNeese-Mechan

I’ve recently been asked to comment on the work of the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership, which oversees joint working between Edinburgh Council, police, prison, fire and rescue, the voluntary sector and other stakeholders who meet four times annually to address complex issues.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 7:00 am
When asked 'how are you?', many people will reply they are 'fine' even if they are be struggling (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Residents will be aware of the work in tackling motorbike crime and antisocial behaviour around Bonfire Night, for example.

Before the pandemic, the ECSP had agreed several strands of work including digital safety, which has been even more important as so much of the world has moved online.

Another strand has been a focus on youth work, and that has allowed us to quickly convene a meeting to support our Lothian Buses service which has seen a truly distressing level of attacks in recent weeks.

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We are clear that no one should have to face violence in the workplace, and public transport workers who have provided a vital service throughout this pandemic are most certainly no exception.

Just this week, Thrive Edinburgh, an initiative to improve the mental health and well-being of all our citizens, met again digitally.

Established just two years ago, Thrive also moved rapidly into the digital space, providing vital resources to support mental health, with the recognition that this affects each and every one of us, especially with the challenges that modern life and urbanisation present – even in normal times.

One of the innovative insights is that both our mental and physical health vary over time – we all have great days and not-so-great ones.

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Dividing people into categories and labelling them as “those with mental health problems” both marginalises individuals, and prevents many from seeking help simply to avoid that label.

A ‘Thrive’ approach means recognising the common humanity which means all of us can’t be strong all of the time – and that the best solution is often just being able to reach out to each other.

Our community safety team’s second trauma-informed leadership workshop also took place this week, as we position ourselves to be an organisation that recognises the reality that many of our service users and our own staff may be survivors of trauma – studies indicate that a much higher number of people have suffered from a traumatic event, or series of events, than previously recognised.

That, of course, will only have increased over this past year. I suspect that all of us going forward will experience some level of ‘survivors’ guilt’. If we’re struggling at work, we may feel guilty about all those who’ve lost jobs. If we’re struggling with our health, we may feel even worse for all those who didn’t make it.

Right now you may see the hashtag #AskTwice trending – a reminder for us all, because we’re conditioned to reply “oh, fine!” when asked how we’re doing.

These days more than ever it’s worth picking up the phone, or leaning over the fence, and just asking again: “No, but how are you, really?” It could make all the difference to someone struggling to cope.

Dr Amy McNeese-Mechan is chair of the Community Safety Partnership and councillor for Leith Walk

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