Speaking Out About Mental Health
Do you know someone who is suffering with poor mental health?
You may not be aware but it can affect anyone regardless of age or sex. The person you sit next to in the office, your boss, friend, partner, parents or children could experience it.
A shocking statistic is that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of poor mental health in their lifetime. Not only that, but suicide is reported to be the biggest killer of men under 50! Poor Mental Health can happen at any time.
I have had recent personal experience of someone I love suffering from poor mental health. There are 3 people in my family who have recently suffered and it is heart breaking to experience it. For those people who haven’t experienced the symptoms and behaviours it is sometimes hard to understand how they are feeling and why they are feeling the way they do. I also found out that a lovely and amazing friend suffered through a period of bullying and even considered ending their life – the thought that she felt there was no way out for her brought me to tears.
My daughter was recently diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. She was aware that she wasn’t her usual self and that “The Black Dog” was paying her a visit, so she took herself off to the GP – she wanted to go alone as she felt she would open up to how she was feeling without me being there for fear of upsetting me or not understanding why she was feeling that the way she did.
It was heart breaking to see my confident 18 year old shrink in front of my eyes to someone who was afraid to go out, and on the few occasions she did venture out it was with me, and only for a short period of time. She became totally withdrawn and I became her comfort blanket. She broke contact with her friends as she felt they didn’t understand how she was feeling. She felt that she had let us all down, she couldn’t focus on tasks, her sleep was poor but thankfully had no thoughts of harming herself. This took its toll on me too - I had to be mindful of what I said so as not to worry her or upset her. She would contact me numerous times during the day to check on me - she didn’t want anything to happen to her “comfort blanket”.
At home we felt like we were walking on eggshells which wasn’t helped initially by my husband struggling to understand how and why she was feeling like she did. It has resulted in her now having to take medication to help her through this period and we are waiting for a date to come through for some CBT. We are on the right path to getting her back to a better place, which is helped by her acknowledging she needed support to get her there.
All through this, that friend I mentioned was there for me: she gave me advice and support – she was my rock and has helped me through this period more than she knows (until now!). Thankfully she did find her voice and I hope she does know that I will always be here for her whenever she has a wobble.
So what can we do …? Importantly, we need to look after our own mental health. It is so easy for us to become affected due to the pressures we are under, not only in our work but also our personal lives. We need to be mindful of the signs in ourselves and also in others around us. Are you or someone you work or live with a little different, are you aware of something that may be happening in yours or their own personal life? How are the pressures at work? Something as simple as asking “are you OK?” or asking for help yourself can be the most powerful question when someone is struggling. Just by offering or accepting some emotional support can help. If you or they are finding it difficult to talk, just knowing someone is there and wanting to help can be hugely reassuring. Just the simple act of listening can be so helpful. They say that a problem shared is a problem halved... by sharing a problem it could be simple for someone else to help resolve it. However be mindful that someone may not want to talk. It may be frustrating for you but you cannot force it upon them. Just let them know you are there when they are ready should they change their mind.
The charity Mind in the UK has a great website that is full of advice and information, they also have local Minds who can offer specialised support to those who may need it. If you are suffering yourself and feel that you have no-one to turn to, you can also contact Samaritans -they are always there for you 24 hours a day 365 days a year...you don’t have to be suicidal to call them.
So let’s all get talking about Mental Health, we need to remove the old stigma attached to it because it really is nothing to be ashamed of and it could be you next. Speaking is the first step to recovery – and for those suffering it really is the biggest step they will ever make.
Samaritans Number: 116123