WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY
My name is Sophie, I am 34 and I suffer with mental health issues.
Am I depressed?
In the eyes of the NHS yes, in my opinion no.
I am suffering from trauma bought on by a series of painful and traumatic experiences. Experiences that I didn’t know how to deal with because I’d never been educated on them. Emotions that I simply had no coping mechanism for because I hadn’t experienced them before.
Rather than being taught coping mechanisms to help deal with the trauma I have been offered medication to manage my mindset because they have labelled it depression. Depression is often a result of a chemical imbalance however trauma is damage to the mind as a result of a distressing event or series of events.
Have I ever had suicidal thoughts?
Yes, many times, is that an easy thing to admit? absolutely not!
Suicidal thoughts come from a place of not knowing what other options you have, they come from a place of feeling so drained and tired that you just want some relief. A lot of people deem suicide as a selfish act, everyone is entitled to their opinion after all, but would you say the same about someone who died from a different illness? Mental health is an extremely serious but seriously misunderstood and mismanaged illness. Regardless of whether it’s due to an imbalance in chemicals, inability to rationalise or a sense of loss your mind is working against you. Your mind simply isn’t working with you any more and you don’t know how to change that, is that really selfish or is that simply mismanaged torture?
What has helped me through my mental health struggles?
Having people physically around me, treating me like I’m normal and not having any expectation on me. People who truly hear what I am saying and ask probing questions that challenge my thoughts and mind to open up about my feelings. People who encourage me to speak and acknowledge what I am saying. People who allow me to be me regardless of what mood I’m in without offering me solutions or telling me to ‘be positive’ People who sit with me, even in silence and didn’t want anything from me and had no selfish underlying intent. Being outdoors, around water or around animals helps me a huge amount. It offers me the peace and clarity my mind needs when it feels like a whirlwind. There is something very refreshing and grounding being around raw, unconditional elements.
What can we do to support those suffering better?
Avoid telling someone with mental health issues to be positive, you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to imagine the mass wasn’t there. If it was as easy as being positive or focusing on the good then people wouldn’t be dying.
Listen with purpose and acknowledge what they are saying. Being heard is hugely important and being understood is simply life changing.
Be creative when asking how someone is, asking a generic ‘How are you?’ will get a false response most of the time. Someone struggling is more likely to lie and give a generic semi-positive response to the question. Challenge your mind and find new ways to ask probing questions and more questions, in order to get a true response on how someone is. Don’t put the ownership on everyone else to ‘just say’ when they aren’t ok because they won’t. It is time to start challenging ourselves to find ways of dealing with this illness.
Be there because giving the offer of help or support really isn’t helpful. People who suffer with mental health issues tend to feel like a burden, hence why they often hide how they are feeling. They will never ask to ‘cash in’ your offer of help or ask for something even if they need it as they feel like a burden. Turn up, be present and give the help without direction.
Recognise when someone is withdrawing, recognise when their words are changing or reducing and be aware of changes in behaviour. If you notice changes, talk to them and ask questions, it’s time to challenge ourselves to force change.
How can those suffering support themselves?
Spend time with people who make your heart smile and surround yourself with those who inspire you.
Take time out from people who expect too much from you or who don’t make you feel great.
Distance yourself from situations that push your limitations too much. Generally pushing yourself is a positive thing and helps you grow but sometimes we just need to maintain. Having the wisdom to recognise this is growth in itself.
Understand you are not alone. Speak out as much as you can, you are loved, people want to help. I know that it doesn’t feel that way at times but they really do.
Be kind to yourself. Life is hard, don’t put expectation on yourself because everyone at some point needs a break and if you need a break then take it because you deserve it.