World Mental Health Day

The parallel universe of mental health.

It’s 2019 and the theme for World Mental Health Day is Suicide Prevention.

My header image is my way of illustrating how mental illness is perceived. Alongside the diagnoses are the words people use to describe us. Fear? Confusion? Lack of knowledge? Misinformation? Whatever the reason, mental illness is often not understood. And if the illnesses are not understood then how can extreme behaviours such as self-harm and suicide be understood?

Why was suicide prevention chosen as a theme for this year? I think it’s because it’s Easy. Well ‘outsiders’ tend to think it’s easy. Tell people on the edge of despair that things are going to be OK. Tell them you’re there for them. Tell them you have all the time they need 24/7. Tell them to believe they are worthy of love. I genuinely feel that ‘outsiders’ think it is that simple.

Think about it for a moment or two. Actually it’ll need longer than that.

Those on the ‘edge of depair’ possibly despair that they are much too close to the edge. Are actually teetering on the edge, a hair’s breadth from falling headlong into the chasm. Into oblivion. Because no-one has seen just how close they are. Until now.

You’re there for them? Perhaps you have too infrequently been ‘there’. Perhaps now is too late to fill the gap that you’ve created simply because you failed to see what was happening. Until now.

You have all the time they need? When the point comes when you feel the need to say this, then possibly you’ve left it too late. They have waited too long for those words to be a reality and now they have run out of time.

They are worthy of love? Often this is accompanied with ‘you need to start loving yourself’. Come on. How could anyone believe they are worthy of love when they are not shown it? When they are not seen as real people with genuine problems?

The ugly side of suicide prevention

You’re selfish. Think of your loved ones. The ones you leave behind. The ones who will have to carry on with their lives without you. The ones who’ll have to pick up the pieces.

Possibly they are the only ones you’ve been thinking about. Certain that they’ll be better off without you. Because you are the burden they all carry. You’re the one dragging everyone down. You are the one they weep for.

You may struggle with planning the best, easiest, least upsetting ‘way out’ for them to cope with. Outsiders do not understand this stage. Probably do not know it exists.

Another way

Suicide wouldn’t need to be prevented if such thoughts were kept at bay in the first place. It really shouldn’t get to that stage.

If a loved one is struggling with mental health issues –

  • be there from the beginning and not when the pieces need to be collected and put back together
  • make time, regular time for sitting together, going out for a coffee, reading together, just chilling out – nothing ‘heavy’, but simple things that are not underpinned by added pressures
  • show them love – a touch of the hand, a hug, placing a blanket over them (only things that you know are acceptable and not seen as threatening nor controlling)
  • if they are well enough to communicate then simply ask what they would like

This year’s World Mental Health Day is moving towards its end. In some places it is over already. Please don’t let the day end with little done, little moved forward. It really is too huge a problem to have just one day to itself.

This is my personal opinion. If I have offended anyone it was not intended and I am truly sorry. It is an emotive subject and I write from personal experience having been in the mental health system over 50 years and attempted suicide more times than I can recall. I have been shouted at, cursed, abused because of it. Been made to feel humiliated, guilty, worthless. Only genuine, unconditional love from other people pulled me through. That is my message to you.