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Mental Health

Mental health doesn’t discriminate

For those who’ve never been touched by mental health issues, including suicide, it is something that happens to others and could never possibly touch their own lives.  It’s not arrogance, just a genuine belief that it can’t happen to them.  A little like thinking our home is so secure that the burglary at The Smiths 2 doors away couldn’t ever happen to us.

And then the wake up call comes.  Suddenly, we realise we are just as susceptible as anyone else.

The truth is, none of us is exempt from the good, bad and ugly.  And this includes mental wellbeing issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and suicide.

SOS meets lots of people from different backgrounds at its events.  It is categorically true that no matter how rich, poor, smart, slow, beautiful or plain you may be, whether you drive a rust bucket or a gleaming new pose-mobile, live in a secluded mansion or in the middle of a busy council estate, MENTAL HEALTH DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE

Sure, we’re aware that many complex factors can add to, or even be responsible for, issues relating to mental wellbeing.  Some (very lucky) people can actually thrive and find strength in the most difficult and testing times.  But mostly, financial, relationship, work and family problems can creative overwhelming anxiety for people, resulting in an isolation and rapid descent into depression and/or thoughts of suicide.

It’s important to point out that feelings of suicide are not always accompanied by apparent or diagnosed depression.  We’ve met three individuals who’ve told us that, in their opinion, they are not depressed, never have been, are not anxious, have no financial or other concerns but simply do not see the purpose of life itself, do not get ‘the point of it all’  and are quite prepared to end their lives when they decide they’ve had enough of their pointless existence. I’d argue that a lack of interest in life is an indicator of depression in itself, but respect the individual’s viewpoints.

It doesn’t matter which category you fall into, the point here is that whatever the reasons for depression and/or suicidal thoughts, we could all become victims, over a period of time or in the blink of an eye.

Think about all the stories you read in the news.  A huge amount of diversity in the individual’s circumstances.  Take, for example, today’s sad news on the BBC website about footballer Aaron Lennon .  Talented, successful and yes, you’d think wouldn’t you that he had it all?  Yet imagine the expectation on him.  From himself, from the club he plays for, from his colleagues and the footballing public, possibly the biggest and harshest critics of all.  As ex footballer  Vincent Pericard told us in Portsmouth last month, the expectation from the spectators and the feeling you’re being  judged continuously on the public stage, all takes its toll.

So what about someone who isn’t in the public limelight? Let’s take Oliver Thompson-Smith as an example of a ‘normal’ young man.  He attempted suicide some time after being traumatised through an attack in which he was stabbed and mugged.  Oliver was fortunate.  He had an understanding Manager who helped him once he decided to speak up and speak out. Pause for a moment though and reflect on just how many employers have either no empathy, no understanding and/or no mental wellbeing processes in place to help vulnerable employees. The following is taken from a BBC Business article online today.

Sue Baker, director of mental health charity, Time to Change, turning to your boss is not always the best course of action.

“We wouldn’t encourage people to routinely disclose,” she says. “Because obviously there’s really poor practice still.

“It can result in people being passed over for promotion, not being offered opportunities to develop themselves, and to outright discriminatory comments.”

She advises people to speak up only if it’s clear your employer is supportive of mental health programmes.”

Obviously, Sue makes an extremely valid observation.

But aren’t we merely feeding the fire that sustains the silence by suggesting people keep quiet?  Only by open and honest communication that drives understanding and tolerance, can we possibly begin to make genuine and sustainable headway.