Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl became a prominent psychiatrist. We can all learn from what he said about getting through the hardest times – Karin McCluskey.

Neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl in London in 1964 (Photo: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As a rule, the answer to the first question is “not bad” or “I’m fine.” The trick is to explore, to ask questions from a different perspective, to engage in the lost art of real listening. Perhaps we should ask, “Why do you…?”

After two years of “it,” as I call it, without using the word “you know what,” we are about to enter a new phase where I want to be more hopeful, more connected.

But it would be disdainful to think that the last few years have left no wounds that may take time to heal. Missed opportunities for our young people, whom I feel so sorry for, older people who left this life alone and without a loved one to hold their hand.

I see my own daughter, whose life has become smaller, and the chances of meeting new people and new experiences, that is, what your late teens and early twenties are, have almost disappeared.

There are others for whom this period will become “a terrible year two”, whose mental health is undermined. The defining experience will be the feeling of worthlessness, detachment and inability to experience any joy. If they are lucky, there will be someone who will listen to them, notice the decline, support them and intervene, but this is not always the case.

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Sometimes falling into the abyss can be insidious, gradual, imperceptible to others, and sometimes fatal. I follow a wonderful woman on Twitter, whom I was lucky enough to meet in person several times, whose son committed suicide in the meantime.

Her messages are raw and sometimes difficult to read. There will be people who live with a loved one or a child in crisis, for whom the thought that they might kill themselves is an undercurrent that keeps them in a state of constant fear.

For those who work in the justice system in which I work, their mental state may have been exacerbated by waiting for trial, living in limbo while waiting for the system to be restored so they can move on if possible.

For others, it has been periods of pre-trial detention, long periods of isolation without family visits, and anxiety over upcoming trial dates that have yet to be set.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote about those who have a “why” to live, who can endure almost any “how.” Frankl’s “why” was his wife Tilly, as he endured torture and starvation.

He became an eminent psychiatrist, and his work is now more relevant than ever. The “why” to live and recover is of key importance, but even this can be lost.

However, there are lights in the darkness; excellent general practitioner, consultant, cognitive behavioral therapy, helpline operated by organizations such as Breathing Space and Mind. It is only when we are surrounded, confused, and broken that we lose our sense of free will and control—helplessness breeds hopelessness.

Recovery is not an explosive or revolutionary process, it is the rediscovery of what has been lost. We restore our hope through small things and through reaching out to others.

Karin McCluskey, Chief Executive of Community Justice Scotland

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