Muhammad Khan is 37 years old and has been a resident at a mental health rehabilitation unit in Stockport for almost three years. Here he shares his thoughts on the last twelve months.

Before Covid-19 we did not have many restrictions and were able to freely visit family or go shopping. Over the past year, life has changed a great deal. However, rather than be bored, inactive or watch TV all day, there is much we can do, we just need to be positive and optimistic.

Prior to the lockdown we were encouraged and supported to be independent so we would go shopping and visit the cinema and local car boot sales.

There were regular walking trips and visits to the nearby mosque. I also went home on weekends to see my large family.

Things have changed a lot since the lockdown started and life on the unit became harder. Leave was restricted and many activities were stopped. Members of staff have to wear protective personal equipment at all times.

The nursing team are caring and understanding and make things bearable for us. They arrange pool competitions and other activities to keep us entertained. We have a great occupational therapist team, who keep us busy with different activities and whatever our interests are, such as scrabble, cooking or writing. The hardest thing is not being able to go home to see my family. My family originate from Bangladesh and have been very supportive of me over the years. My respected father passed away recently, I was able to see him just before he died. I am grateful for that.

Visitors are still not allowed on the ward, but we can use Skype and Facetime to keep in touch with friends and family. I am in regular contact with my mum and siblings.

Group and individual psychology sessions have continued. I have learnt many distraction and coping techniques from the ward psychologist, including mindfulness. I have learned Compassion Focussed Therapy which has revolutionised how I interact with people and how I view myself.

I enjoy studying maths and practicing my writing as it is a mental challenge and the focus stops me from rumination and worry.

I think it is important to realise that hundreds of millions of people have gone through the same ordeal as we have, locked down, isolated and unable to see family. At least we have shelter, clean water and food, unlike the displaced Rohingya people in Bangladesh or the Syrian people who regularly face bombs and bullets.

I believe we can all use our free time to do something positive. My religious faith has helped me through many dark times. I pray for myself, my family and friends and all of humanity that we get through this experience.

I find the unit to be a safe place where no one will judge you and you will be treated with dignity and respect. I have a degree in English and politics and had started an MA in journalism before my first admission to hospital. I have always enjoyed writing, so have used my free time to fulfil my dream and have written a novel. I have completed the first draft of my book. It is called The Fire Mage and is a young adult fantasy about a bullied child who grows up to become a great magician.

I have now started working on the second draft of my book. I have been encouraged by positive feedback from family and staff and hope to publish it one day. Although I did not complete my GCSE maths course I have recently received my qualification based on prior assessments.

I run a blog and write regular articles for Mental Health Today and Asian Image which I enjoy very much.

Although I am coping well under the circumstances, I know other people with mental health problems may not be doing as well. People who are suffering from severe depression or schizophrenia will have been affected more by the lockdown than most people. I hope for the day when I will be able to go home and freely see all my loved ones again and go out whenever I want, wherever I want.

The greatest lesson I have learned is patience and gratitude. To have patience when faced by privation is taught by Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (s). Though our situation is difficult there is a silver lining in the cloud – vaccinations- so we should be hopeful and positive that the Covid-19 will soon be under control God willing.