Its time to talk
September is Suicide Prevention Month, not that any other month it is less thought of. More so the push for individuals to talk about the topic of taking your own life. But it is the practical issue of suicide its self that limits the conversation. Once a person has begun to take steps to bring their existence to an end, almost all are unaware and there is no a pit stop checklist to go through that could trigger the alarm from a loved one.
It seems simple to most that you would recognise the signs of someone close to you that is suffering from some form of mental illness, but the battle of convincing yourself in the first place is what gives you the rehearsal to bluff your daily existence and censor suspecting friends. The pleas from loved ones who ‘wished they could have talked to someone’ are sadly the closest we often come to having an open book on the discussion of suicide. Unfortunately, hindsight doesn’t make this topic any louder and we see the issue packed away into its box at the back of our minds until the next occasion we hear about someone taking the choice not to carry on living.
The sense of anger felt by grieving loved ones at why they felt they couldn’t talk to them about their problems is often a haunting one. More often than not that anger is aimed at themselves, the disgust that they did not recognise the telltale signs of someone they cared for and often lived with, but often it is because of the close proximity that sufferer will masque their behaviour so not to raise suspicion. The fear of any attempt at discussing the deafening thoughts that race on repeat is enough to warrant the camouflage behaviour.
But why would it be any different? I mean I can certainly say I don’t recall any training or explanation to what happens to the human brain in times of struggle, do you?
But I bet you can recall the image of a CPR dummy you have practised on at some point. Or maybe more so the memory of falling as a kid and your mother or father immediately rushing to tend to the cut on your knee to help it heal. It amazes me that we still treat mental health any differently.
We go through trauma in our lives enduring grieving, breakups, illness, financial worries, fear and worry for ourselves and our loved ones. Trauma in our work life with stress, uncertainty and a hierarchy ladder to climb. Yet we look at these parts of our lives as just something we all go through with no afterthought to the impact it may have on our state of mind. Psychological First Aid or Emotional Hygiene is a term we aren’t familiar with but one that Guy Winch talks about in his TEDx talk. The physical body heals because we recognise a problem with it and look at repairing the issue, often asap. However, when it comes to our psychological state of mind we just get on with it, suppress it or put it to the back of our mind. This isn’t just a macho thing amongst men who hide any signs of weakness, a disruption to your mental wellbeing doesn’t care about your age, race, gender or how tough you think you are.
Quite often the hindrance with reaching out about a mental health issue is that the outlets to talk actually aren’t as clear as we feel, simply because we don’t know what to talk about or how best to respond.
It’s hard enough to depict your feelings into words to clearly illustrate the overwhelming pressure you are feeling, especially so that your chosen peer can understand just for one minute, the repetitive torment you face daily. Imagine then to await a prescribed response of “Be positive” or “It’ll get better” to unintentionally, but furiously fuel the feeling of being alone.
I don’t preach to have a master remedy for our inept ability to deal with our fears around mental health. I think the hardest part to all of this system is actually recognising an issue before it sets in and has a chance to manifest. Suicide is referred to as the silent killer because we as loved ones who take their own life, had no clue that life had got so bad. But I think the real silence is because depression has the cancerous ability to creep up from within like a trojan horse and take over every part of your being. The impact of that being, it is incredibly difficult to recognise a change unless you are aware of the signs or change in behaviour until it has poisoned your judgement into feeling as that this suffering isn’t going to change.
With the month being dedicated to suicide prevention I wanted to use this topic to think about how we talk to our peer group about some of the underlying issues and contributors of mental health. We don’t currently gain any education in this area like we would if this were a physical injury, so I wanted to start an open discussion about we can be more proactive towards our state of mind.
Have you ever asked someone you know has been through a difficult time, be it from a relationship, family problem, financial or career. How they felt as they were going through it, to how they feel now?
Being mindful of events in our friend’s lives can be the easiest step to opening a channel to talk. We saw it took some recognising in ITV’s new series of ‘Cold Feet’ where James Nesbitt’s character Adam, failed to see the situation his best friend ‘Pete’ was in. I felt the show handled the topic superbly and opened up the conversation for male friends to breach the topic. This follows the similar campaign ‘Are You Ok Mate’ which looks to break the stigma about talking in male friendships.
No one is invincible and perhaps the more we are able to discuss our state of mind, the easier it will be to recognise the issues that this month is set to address.