World Mental Health Day

Trigger warning: suicide.

It’s World Mental Health Day 2019. The focus this year is preventing suicide, and the scary fact is that someone loses their life to suicide approximately every 40 seconds.

The campaign encourages everyone to take 40 seconds of their time, to raise awareness, speak to a loved one who might be struggling, or to speak to someone yourself if you’re the one that’s struggling.

This last point is one I find challenging. I’ve often had my mental health conditions belittled and mocked, by employers and medical professionals, but also by friends and family.

The way I explain it to my nine-year-old is, “You wouldn’t see someone with a leg in a plaster cast and go kick them, would you? So with someone with mental health issues, you have to listen and pay attention to their needs.”

My concern has always been that my needs weren’t as important as the needs of others. There are reasons for this low self-worth, and I’ve recently hashed it out with an incredible and patient therapist. I’m now starting to put my own needs first. It’s difficult, especially when those who have always been able to “rely on you” suddenly find you saying “No” or not being available.

Here are a few ways I’ve changed how I deal with my mental health:

  • If I need to take time for myself, I take it and try not to feel guilty
  • I say “No” if I’m unable to do something
  • I don’t judge if I’m able to do something by the amount of time I have available but by my own energy levels and capacity to deal with things
  • I rest when I need to rest
  • I give myself lots of extra time if I need to leave the house, especially when going somewhere new, to avoid panic attacks
  • When I notice my mood dipping, I try and do something positive like writing, singing, making music, playing with the kids
  • When this doesn’t work, I confide in my husband

I’m definitely not anywhere close to recovery. I still struggle with many of these points, and am considering discussing with my GP going back onto anti-depressants for a while, as things have been tough recently.

The main thing I struggle with is how well I “mask” my problems. I am excellent at putting a brave face on and just getting on with stuff. It’s worth remembering that many people you know might also do this. Just because someone seems fine, it doesn’t mean they are. A quick message or call can make the difference between someone feeling entirely alone and knowing someone cares.

Losing someone to suicide is shattering. It can come out of the blue, or it can feel like something that’s been looming for years. If you know someone has had suicidal thoughts, no matter how flippantly they may have mentioned it, check in with them. The Black Dog Institute has advice on looking out for warning signs of suicidal tendencies here.

And if you’re the one struggling, don’t let your mental health problems trick you into believing no one cares. You absolutely matter, and the world is a better place for having you in it.

Find information on World Mental Health Day 2019 here and support hotlines from mental health charity Mind here.

There’s always someone to talk to at The Samaritans too.

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