What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor and more unashamed conversation.Glen Close
You may or may not be aware that this month, September is the month of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, with world Suicide Prevention Day being on Thursday 10th September.
The aim of this month, is to spread awareness, share resources and stories in a bid to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.
I contemplated on the idea of writing this blog as I know that for the majority of people, suicide (well mental health alone) can be considered quite a daunting subject to touch upon, but then when speaking with a friend, she reinforced the idea, that the fact that society thinks mental health is “too much” of a topic to talk about, is more than likely the reason as to why suicide rates are still so high, which gives me even more ammunition to speak about this topic.
A few weeks ago, I had a close friend of mine come to me and tell me that they were feeling suicidal and contemplated taking their own life. In that moment the only way to explain how I was feeling was helpless. Whilst I was so grateful that they had opened up and shared the burden of how they was feeling, I didn’t want to say anything that was going to patronize them or make them feel even worse then they already did, and sure, there is certain things that you definitely shouldn’t say but ultimately there is no right or wrong way to talk about suicidal feelings, starting the conversation is what’s important.
It’s fair to say that we all know someone (yourself included) that has struggled with their mental health at some point in their life, whether that be a diagnosed mental health condition, a generalized daily struggle or through uncontrollable life events that make us feel mentally NOT OK.
It can be at any time, for any reason but the fact of the matter is because it’s not physically seen, it has been embedded into society that it’s not as important enough to talk about. IT IS. It’s just as, if not more important than your physical health.
Our mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. In simpler terms, it affects how we think, feel and act. Not to mention, it also helps determine how we make choices, communicate with others and handle stress.
It annoys me that there is still a lot of people that believe, that the people that really suffer with their mental health are in one category and the people that don’t (or manage to handle it well enough to feel like they don’t) are in another category! OK granted, some people do have more severe conditions that are more apparent to us that need to be looked at individually, however when it comes down to it, EVERY human being on this earth has a mental health that needs to be looked after.
We ALL have a mental state that fluctuates between mental well-being and mental illness that can change daily, weekly or when something in our life triggers it and NO ONE can try and tell you, how you feel.
It seems as though, the world at large applies so much unnecessary pressure to themselves in the hope to feel good everyday, when in reality it would be weird if this was the case. Just take a second to think about what you’re asking of yourself…
Life is hard and you believe that every single day you’re supposed to wake up and feel good? Impossible. Please understand that this a big ask and this sort of pressure, without everything else that life throws at us, is not needed.
The chances of you waking up every single day and feeling good is highly unlikely but that’s OK, like your physical health sometimes you can wake up and feel a little weak, tender or mentally exhausted and it’s perfectly normal when someone asks, to turn around and say “NO, i’m not OK”.
Yes, their facial expression may be a little shocked and they’ll probably hesitate on what to say next because the truth is, a lot of people don’t like to appear vulnerable and so they won’t expect you to come out with that, but that’s the stigma that we need to start breaking.
“No one notices when the strong friend stops being strong”.
As well as being aware of our own mental health and taking measures to look after it, we need to start being aware of other’s people’s mental health too, now more than ever. Honestly, i know that this is much easier said than done because like I stated earlier, it’s so easy to assume that your friends are OK because we can see how good their life looks from the surface and how happy they seem and so we don’t tend to pry too much.
It’s only when they’ve physically broken down to us, posted sad quotes on social media or sent us huge paragraphs that we tend to start acknowledging that something is up and even then, the way that we approach things needs to be explored differently.
Let’s run a narrative:
Your friend loses their job and starts to get behind with bills, they worry that they will lose their home, car and not find work for months. All these issues weigh heavy on their heart and push them into a spiral of negative thoughts which makes them fall into mild depression, which begins to make them feel as though there is nothing else to live for. You lost your job two weeks before and you tell your friend to “cheer up” because it’s “only a job” and “things aren’t that bad”, because when it happened to you, you “got over it”
First of all, you’re being a major a hole, but secondly you need to understand that although the same situation has happened to you, it certainly does not mean that mentally you’re going to process it the same. Like physical health, no two types are identical. So NO ONE, not your girlfriend, boyfriend, mom or brother can tell you, how you’re feeling, if you’re feeling it. You get it?
Society is the worst for this on men. Telling them to “man up” or “grow some balls” when they express how they’re feeling. Women idolize wanting a “strong manly man” that can “take care of us” and as soon as they show any sort of real emotion we deem them as weak and incapable. Do you know how damaging that is?
Did you know that 75% of all people that die by suicide are male?
The friend that came and opened up to me was a man and the respect that I had for him after speaking to me, grew tenfold. I felt so moved that he felt comfortable enough to open up to me about something that society projects so unspeakable to talk about, for men especially.
Guys, let’s STOP belittling people (men especially) for how they’re feeling and let’s start really listening and exploring as to why they are feeling the way that they do. Let’s provide a comfortable safe space for them to open up and provide them with the tools that bring them back to a place where they feel safe and let themselves be loved.
A few of the things that I find useful, that help maintain a positive mental health include:
- Be Conscious – Pay attention to the stress, anxiety and uncomfortable thoughts in your head. Stop ignoring the signs in the hope that “you’ll get past it”. When you do finally acknowledge how you’re feeling, stop beating yourself up about it and put healthy measures in place. Reach out to your friend, meditate, block the person causing you aggro, miss your gym class booked for the day, do WHATEVER you NEED to do, for YOU.
- Honest Conversations – People find it hard to open up when it comes to their mental health for the fear of feeling vulnerable, ashamed or being judged. Understand that your mental health is important and the people with your best interests at heart, care about you. Start to seek help without judgement or stigma and have an open, heartfelt conversation about your mental health.
- Listen to understand, not to reply – More often than not we ask our friends “How are you” and we expect them to say “I’m good thanks” as an automatic response. But when they say they’re not good, it can throw us off guard. Start to dig deeper and listen to what they’re telling you, don’t gloss over what they’re saying with a quick response because you feel you need to reply. They’ve told you they’re not ok for a reason so listen and reply accordingly. This in turn, will make them feel listened to, valued and hopefully offer more comfort for them to open when needed.
- Social Media Consumption – This is not real life, we can get too consumed with apps such as Instagram and Snapchat reminding us of the cars we don’t drive or the bags we don’t have, which build up negative emotions and starts to impact our mental health – If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the online world, take a break or switch it off.
FACT – While half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% experienced symptoms.
As it is Suicide Prevention Awareness month, I would encourage you all to PLEASE help promote awareness by sharing images and posts on your social media accounts. Use #SuicidePrevention or #StigmaFree.
Whilst I know writing this blog is not going to help build huge confidence in those that suffer with a mental health condition to speak out, I at least hope that me writing this helps someone to become more conscious of their own MH and of those around them.
Let’s normalize the topic of MH and suicide and help break the stigma!
Take care of yourselves and others.
If you are struggling at the moment or know of anyone that is struggling, please I encourage you to either speak to family members, friends, ME – Insta DM (Link at the top of the page) or contact the following charities:
Unless it says otherwise, they’re open 24 hours a day, every day.
Childline – For children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – The number will not show up on your phone bill