I have recently been involved in a research project about attitudes towards mental health and the results were both surprising and interesting. Although there generally appears to be more awareness of mental health and more understanding it would also appear that we still have a long way to go. Too many people still feel uncomfortable talking to friends or family about their mental health or seeking professional help and support.
A general feeling that I have is that the help and support available is a bit like a postcode lottery and some will be incredibly useful whilst others will be shocking. For many people, reaching out takes a lot of courage and so when help is sort, the least we can do is offer them the best support possible.
One of the worst feelings in the world is when you feel helpless, hopeless, and completely powerless. When you can’t see the light even if you so desperately want to, when no one else appears to truly get how you are feeling and they tell you it will be ok when you don’t feel that it will and all you desperately want is for the pain and suffering to end. Those are very scary feelings and ones I hope no one ever has to experience but if they do, I only hope that those feelings fade enough to be able to see the light in order to have the opportunity for life to get better.
I can’t sit here and judge those who have those feelings and make the painstaking decision to end their life. It isn’t cowardly, a cop out or an easy decision…far from it. It makes me feel truly heartbroken and angry with society that people reach this point and see no other way out. I feel that we have let those people down, but I would also never feel that any one individual has the power to stop someone from taking their own life.
Everyone’s experience is different but, in my opinion, I would say that often people don’t truly know what is going on for that person and if they do, they may not ‘get it.’ With the best will in the world we can try and put ourselves in their position or try and understand how they are feeling but no one can ever truly know or feel the pain of that individual. Sometimes, I’m not sure that there is anything anyone can say or do to help when someone feels so much pain and suffering. For some there is also a feeling of shame and a sense that their family would be better off without them which they genuinely believe.
Despite knowing this I still believe that as a society we have a long way to go when it comes to helping improve attitudes towards mental health so that people feel able to talk more freely about how they are feeling and to be able to access support.
I know that GPs are incredibly overworked and that they no doubt see numerous people who are feeling down or depressed, but I would always hope that rather than seeing patients as yet another person feeling down that they would take the time to see patients as individuals and genuinely listen to them. Whilst I can’t blame GPs for people’s actions, I am incredibly angry and disappointed that despite someone working up the courage to see their GP and talk to them about the state of their mental health for the first time in their life that they would be fobbed off and sent away. Heartbreakingly, last week, that person took their own life.
We never know what is going on for people and on the face of it people can look happy, and their lives can look wonderful which is why I always believe in the power of smiling at people or taking the time to be kind. Yes, it may not make any difference to someone who is feeling so hopeless but equally it could make all the difference…to feel noticed, to feel like someone cares, to feel hope.
I can still picture the last time I saw my best friend’s dad and he looked happy as he played with his young son and sat around the table singing happy birthday to his granddaughters and now, he is gone.
It only takes a second to smile at someone, a few seconds to check in on someone or to give someone a hug but for that person these things could mean so much to them and make the difference between feeling hopeless or having hope.
Nobody should ever feel alone, scared, hopeless or helpless.