(Previously published in 2014 by Nick, our Director)
So the world and their dog have had an opinion today on suicide and mental ill-health. Well one thing is for sure, people are talking about it.
Whether it’s in a positive or negative way, the world’s eye has turned to the death of a great actor, a great man, Robin Williams who is reported to have tragically taken his own as a result of depression. The world has been saddened to lose one of its funniest and most loved actors in recent decades. He will not be forgotten in a hurry, and I defy anyone to think of him in many of his films without feeling a warmth take over, or at least, a slight raise to the corners of your lips.
But actually, that warmth, that smile, as taken for granted as it is by most people is not an experience of everyone. There are many people who have depressive illness (as the medical profession now like to term it), and many with mental health impairment who, however much they wish they could, cannot find the warm fuzzy feeling, can’t bring a smile to their faces, and for those who can, this might be fake or forced.
Yes, I know how it feels. I experience bi-polar depression myself. I’ve had a pretty topsy turvy life. I could blame my depression on my experiences of being adopted (but in reality it was the best thing that ever happened to me). I could say that spending years ‘in the closet’ damaged my mental health…maybe it did. I could fall on ex
relationships and explain how circumstances beyond my control forced me into a manic state. Loss of a job I loved, loss of family members dear to me, social exclusion and isolation, stress… Or I could just call that LIFE. Yep, the old adage…Life’s a bitch. Well do you know what it is. It’s true, we all experience ups and downs, and many people who have never experienced depression will argue this very point to condemn or laugh off the existence of depressive illness. But what they don’t seem to understand is that although we all have ups and downs (and yes our own are experienced as far worse than anyone else’s), some people haven’t got or developed the coping mechanisms required to ‘greet the world with a smile’.
Whether you believe that the fault lies with nature or nurture, the fact remains…some people can’t cope. The more ‘depressing’ reality is that society can’t cope with people who can’t cope. We laugh, we tut, we roll our eyes and we expect people to ‘man up’ (after all hegemonic masculinity necessitates the ability to put on a brave face doesn’t it?). The social barriers that are (re)created prevent people from even talking about their mental health, and this can result in further social isolation and increased forms of depressive illness. At worst, this can lead to suicide which can have delve stating affects on the mental health of those left to deal with it.
Taboo or not taboo. That was the question. It arguable has been for far too long, and I think it’s high time we started to talk about mental health. End the silence, change the attitudes, save lives. It is said that nobody ever knows the internal struggles of another person, but if you can’t go around asking everyone you meet, then let’s start by thinking about what we say, how we say it and the impact that might have on people. Consideration to and for others. I’m not asking you to sit around a tree, naked, chanting, but come on, let’s have a bit more compassion and be more supportive to people. We never know what they are going through, or if we will go through it ourselves and need their friendship, support and compassion in the future.