Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and a cause close to my heart. Thankfully, I am still here but it scares me that at any time I could fall back into that black place where suicide seems like the best option.
Society has come a long way in trying to fight the stigma of depression and suicide and it is now more widely accepted that it is a genuine medical difficulty which can have catastrophic results but we need to do more.
There are thousands of tweets and Instagram posts focussing on opening up and talking about mental health and more and more celebrities are sharing their stories. Recently Princes William and Harry, along with William’s wife Kate, set up the Heads Together charity which hopes to continue to challenge the stigma around mental health and I am in full support. However, talking isn’t enough and isn’t always readily accepted by the listener.
I have found over the last few years that almost everyone is an advocate for mental health. Very few people now perpetuate the archaic belief that depression is a ‘made-up’ illness and there is far more readiness within people to say they support people with depression and other mental health issues. But do they?
Sadly most of these ‘supporters’ only want to support from afar and run from the harsh realities of this cruel and devastating illness. It is okay for people to have mental health issues as long as they keep them to themselves. They will support mental health but not when it’s on their doorstep. They are happy to retweet supportive messages and post positive self talk on their Instagram feed but where are they when those in desperate need actually reach out?
The same can be said of health professionals. I understand completely that the demand is far greater than staffing can cope with, but if a patient presents with suicidal symptoms a year long wait for treatment is not good enough.
I don’t know what the answer is. Talking about it is a great form of educating and encouraging people to be open in order to challenge perceptions and create supportive relationships; I just wish more people would listen. Think about what you say before you say it. Think about your actions before you act. And if someone has plucked up the courage to reach out to you, please respond.