Who Would You Tell

Depressed-woman

Suicide is one of those issues that is tough to discuss because of all of the feelings it dredges up – especially if you have ever experienced someone close to you who has taken their own life.
Its embarrassing, its stigma, its pity and its a closed door with the shutters down and neighbours afraid to knock.
Its because of this stigma, that suicide has been highlighted this month in the Green Ribbon Awareness campaign, organised by Mental Health Ireland.
On the Mental Health Ireland website they post a video in which a range of different people answer the question of who they would tell when they’re feeling suicidal.
“My girlfriend…. my best friend… a family member….” they reply one by one. You hope the video and the campaign will work – but it can be dubious – suicide is such a hard one to crack, its such a private act. Its something so personal.
The thing is, for anyone who has ever been depressed, or been close to someone who was  depressed – telling someone is the most difficult part.
Depression is a disease, its a dark, black hole – its a cage inside your head.
As a friend who lives with depression once explained it to me, it is: “a horrible dark thing inside me, and even when its not there, I know it can wake up, and come back – and when I feel it starting to happen I know there is nothing I can do – I just have to ride it out.”
The thing is, I suppose when we imagine depression we think of unwashed people dragging tins of beans around a supermarket, we imagine someone hiding under a black duvet for weeks, we think of somber music and crying and someone who cannot function or work.
The reality is largely to the contrary. Alot of people I know are depressed – and they function. They function very highly in fact – the sad part is, they function so well, no one would have a clue of their problem. They don’t sit around and they don’t talk about it or try and gain attention, they don’t want sympathy – they didn’t ask for it, and they can’t just ‘snap out of it’ either.
If we want to get rid of the stigma of depression and suicide – we have to stop thinking of people who have depression as ‘weak’.

One particular story that always sticks in my head is that of football manager Gary Speed back in 2011. I don’t follow football but when I heard about it, it was the details that I remembered that stuck in my head – that no one had a clue what he was going to do, how he had laughed and joked in the days coming up to his death, to the shock of his family and friends when they realised what he had happened.
‘What would make a successful, happily married man in a dream job, with a smile always on his face, think suicide was the only option?’ people asked. This is where the scorcery of depression lies. When living with it just gets too much – sometimes for these proud, successful people, rather then bothering people with their issues – they escape using what some people would deem the most selfish act of all.

I spoke to Catherine Fitzsimons, a Life Coach, Business Mentor and Trainer (freshthinking.ie) who understands all too well the challenges people can face with their mental health – she discusses how suicide has worsened with the economic tidal wave of recent years and how public awareness is vital to help this problem.
“The current unemployment rate stands at 14% up drastically since 2007 by over 10%. Suffice to say people have not only lost their jobs but often their sense of identity,” says Catherine.
“This merry-go-round has huge implications for mental health. We need to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and to get people talking about the issues and how they are feeling. Mental health issues are part of human nature and can affect people at any time during their life. People can and do recover, taking back up their lives and becoming stronger than ever.
“However, like your physical health there need to be awareness first.  Imagine the difference it would make if mental health was likened to any other physical health issue? ”

Research has shown that people who receive psychotherapy treatment for mild depression had a 38% lower chance of developing major depression later in life.
Personally, having gained a Foundation Certificate in Psychotherapy last year – I am a big fan of this as a method for helping people to get better, or even just to learn to live with their depression and cope when it strikes.
Talking helps – getting to know yourself and getting to understand yourself helps. Being able to tell the mean voice in your head to shut up and go away is good. It can help every single of one us enjoy life more – even if we don’t class ourselves as ‘depressed’.

As Catherine mentions support, particuarly for males, can be a useful resource.
“A recent report published by Dublin Business School in 2010 showed a higher proportion of males having the highest levels of negative mental well-being particularly between two and six months of being unemployed,” she says.
“Those living in rural or remote areas of the country are even more at risk of mental health problems due to lack of resources available to them such as social support schemes.
“The IENetwork in Dublin supported and funded by the DRA (Dublin Regional Authority) is a prime example of a great support network for unemployed professionals,” she adds.
Catherine also has advice for anyone who is in debt – a factor which has seen many people consider or even complete suicide in recent years.
“If you are facing debt problems, again reach out to the agencies like MABS that can help by calling your creditors and setting up affordable payment schedules on your behalf.  The worst thing you can do in matter of debt is to ‘do nothing at all’ as this will only escalate the situation and cause you continual stress.”

“When I am depressed everything in the world is bad, its a disgusting place and all I can focus on is the negative things,” said a friend. “But when I’m not depressed things are alot nicer and I can forget all those bad things.”
For anyone suicidal or quite depressed reading this – don’t lose hope and don’t keep it all inside – find someone to talk to about it. Trust me, you are not alone.

Video, Mental Health Ireland: http://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/news-events/341–green-ribbon-awareness-campaign-may-2013.html

Catherine FitzSimons website: http://www.freshthinking.ie

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