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Brave mum speaks out on lonely lockdown to help those fearing another

Written by on 30/09/2020

On the surface, Sahira Irshad is a bold and forthright mum who is at the forefront of her community and always ready to fight for what she thinks is right.

However, beneath the tough exterior, the 41-year-old mum-of-two has openly admitted she has struggled with her inner thoughts as battled to come to terms with loneliness, isolation and a “stillness” she experienced during lockdown.

“You don’t realise how busy you are because you go to work, travel to work, pick the kids up from school and during lockdown there was a level of stillness,” the Sheffield mum said.

“Before, your mind was always occupied and I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to get trains, buses and get home on time’ and you are in that routine so when lockdown happened, I felt that stillness more.

“The days became longer because you are not out and about and your brain isn’t as active.

“When the kids were asleep in bed especially, there was a level of stillness and silence and I really felt that. You sometimes feel a bit empty and that really does overwhelm you.

“You just keep thinking ‘is this going to be the new norm’? I worry about my children on a general level and it doesn’t help that this is something out of our control.”

Sahira Irshad founded Mums United in Sharrow

Sahira said the uncertainty of not knowing when the lockdown would end played on her mind massively and made her realise that others were probably experiencing similar emotions to her.

As the only adult in her the house alongside children aged seven and 12, she also craved the company of another adult.

Sahira is known in the Nether Edge community as the head of Mums United – a group formed by Sahira which in the past has tried to tackle a rise in antisocial behaviour, knife crime and drug dealing in Sheffield.

She thinks people would not have guessed that she struggled with her mental health in lockdown and she wants people to know that “it’s OK to not be OK”.

“I think other people think things don’t affect me,” she said. “We are all guilty of putting on a facade that everything is OK and that we are happy and we do put these barriers up.

“I’m very conscious that as the schools have opened and levels are rising that there might be another lockdown coming up and I felt it was important to raise awareness of people’s wellbeing and making sure that we focus our energies on ensuring that the elderly and the vulnerable any family or friends who say they’re OK are checked on.

“If we have another lockdown or if there is another spike, it’s going to put more pressure on us so that is why I want to speak out about this.”

It was Sahira’s community work that helped her overcome her struggles as she devoted herself to helping others and arranging workshops during the COVID pandemic.

She and other community members worked hard to hand out food parcels to those in need and workshops encouraged people to speak about their feelings.

Now, after sharing her story, she wants to spread the message that it is OK to speak about your mental health problems and she has encouraged anyone struggling to reach out for help and support.

“I knew that if I was feeling like this, there would be others too and they would probably feel embarrassed,” Sahira said.

“There are a lot of stigmas attached to mental health and we don’t talk enough about how we feel. I think people are still learning to open up and I think we need to do something about that.

Where to get help if you’re struggling

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help.

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email jo@samaritans.org, in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill

Platform 1 men’s community group: Support for issues including mental health problems and addiction recovery. Visit the website or call 01484 421143.

Andy’s Man Club: info@andysmanclub.co.uk

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Mind: A charity offering support and advice for people with mental health problems.

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. There’s a website and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58

MindOut: Provide support and advice on mental health for members of LGBTQ communities. Phone 01273 234839

“When you feel so down and low you feel like every day rolls into one but my children keep me grounded because I’ve had to be strong for others.

“As mums we are so busy making sure everyone else is OK that we forget to check in on ourselves.

“I just want people to know it’s OK to not be OK. If you ever feel low or want to talk it’s all about the little steps you take. Just connect with us and talk to use at Mums United. We have got trained therapists in the team and we have got people who have that experience and those professional qualifications to help.

“If you feel down and feel like you can’t reach out to your immediate circle then reach out to us. We have started these workshops and we’re going to continue them.”

Find out more about Mums United and the services they offer here.