THIS week sees the publication of Afraid Of The Light, an excellent new collection of crime fiction in aid of the Samaritans. Including new work by the likes of SR Masters, Phoebe Morgan, Jo Furniss and Clare Empson, the anthology takes its inspiration from the Plato quote that ‘We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’

The book’s cause would be an important one at any time, but feels particularly pertinent in the present pandemic situation. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of articles about the potential for unintended deaths because of the lockdown: with A&E visits and GP consultations down, medical conditions that might usually be picked up by the system are in danger of falling between the cracks.

As with physical health conditions, so with mental health. Last week, a survey for the Mental Health Foundation found that feelings of loneliness among the UK population had more than doubled since the start of the lockdown, with a quarter of the adult population admitting to such feelings. In some age categories, the numbers were even higher: 35 per cent of 25- to 35-year-olds and 44 per cent of those between 18 and 24.

It’s never easy to admit such feelings. And it can feel doubly hard when others are proclaiming about how they’ve been using the lockdown to learn Swahili or read the collected works of Marcel Proust. One friend described how their boss was employing the old Einstein quote that ‘in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity’.

In truth, many of us – most of us, I suspect – are doing what we can to get by. Last weekend, I was watching the Together At Home concert, when I found myself losing it to a performance by Jess Glynne. As she was singing I’ll Be There, the TV footage was cutting between different essential workers helping others. One of them was a local shop owner, putting together food parcels for local residents. On each box, he was writing the same simple message ‘You are not alone’.

I’m far from the most forward when it comes to expressing how I feel. But out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself with tears streaming down. It hit home how much I must have been holding in, these last few weeks.

It’s ok not to feel ok. It’s normal to feel sad, or worried, or overwhelmed. But as the message on those food parcels puts it, just remember that you are not alone in feeling that way. And remember, too, that there is always someone out there, ready to listen.

To call Samaritans, ring 116 123.