Lifestyle. Mental Health. Adventure

Thursday, 7 February 2019

It's Time to Talk


**Trigger Warning - There is talk of suicide in this post.  Please avoid reading it if you feel this is something that may affect you**

Oh hey what’s this?!

Two posts in one day?! Who even am I?!

But yes, here I am with another post to close this wonderful Thursday evening because do you know what today is?

It’s Time to Talk Day.

It’s only because an absolute babe of a lady in my office sent an email around the office yesterday that reminded me. An email offering an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on if anybody needs it today, or any day in fact. Just like me, she told us all how she has suffered with her mental health, and although she may be no expert, she knows how her depression has affected her, and can offer advice drawn from her own experiences.

Receiving that email really warmed my heart. This is the first time ever I’ve seen an email distributed to an office where somebody has basically said “Hey, mental illness is real and it sucks so here I am just opening myself up to meaningful conversation about mental health so nobody has to sit and suffer in silence”. It makes me so proud to say I work in an office where mental health is acknowledged and is deemed a real and worthy issue to discuss openly without any stigma surrounding it or judgement from others.

I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position, and believe me when I say I’ve worked in some pretty shitty offices who really don’t get mental health. In fact I was once told I don’t even know what it’s truly like to suffer with mental illness by one of my old managers. Of course I don’t boss lady; my doctor just thought he’d put me on anti-depressants for a laugh…

In all seriousness though, Time To Talk Day is so important, now more than ever. Over the past several years now we’ve lost some huge names to suicide, including Robin Williams, Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, to name just a few, and they’re the well-known names who made it in to main stream media. Then there’s all the normal people like you and me, who aren’t famous enough to make it in to the news. Just how many people have taken their own lives because they felt there was nobody to turn to and no way out?

The simple answer is too many.

The media only seem to have really started to pick up on the huge issue surrounding suicide rates over recent years, but in fact, it’s been an issue for far, far longer than this. I think back to being a young girl, when my Mum worked in a pub in Sheffield around Kelham Island. The Land Lord of the pub, who was also her manager and good friend called her regularly, threatening to take his own life. My Mum being unbelievably good at calming people down always managed to talk him out of it. She always knew it was a cry for help, so no matter the time day or night, she would answer the phone and be there to listen. Unfortunately as time went on, my Mum moved on in her working life and their friendship drifted.  They lost contact, so I don’t know how he is now, but I hope he found somebody else he could open up to in those difficult times, and got the help he needed to move forward in life.

Then there was my Mum’s colleague when she started her career with Midland Mainline, or East Midlands Trains as it is known now. A male colleague of hers who she got on with incredibly well seemingly had it all. A loving wife, a new born baby, a good job, and a happy life. Then one morning my Mum received a phone call. He had taken his own life. She was gobsmacked, and heart broken. How could he possibly do this? His life was wonderful.

But behind the rose tinted glasses, was a man drowning in debt. Debt his wife, family and friends had no idea he was carrying. The weight of his situation became too much for him to bear. He had hidden his debt from everyone for so long; too ashamed to tell the truth, that in his own mind the only solution was to take his own life.

This is a problem that has been apparent in my life stretching over the course of 26 years, but I have no doubt in my mind that people have felt the only solution is suicide for much longer than this, and sadly, I can't see suicide rates going down any time soon.

And yet, for some of those people who have lost all hope, all it might take is a conversation.  My Mum's friend who was drowning in debt?  If he just felt he could open up and have that conversation with somebody, that somebody could have helped him see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The story could have been completely different.  He could have worked his way out of his debt problem, lived a long, happy life with his wife and watched his child grow up.

That one conversation could have saved his life.

As somebody who suffers with depression, I know just how hard it is to open up to people, and ask for help when life feels overwhelming.  I've grown up in a generation where so much stigma has surrounded mental illness, that although those stigmas are slowly breaking down, my guard is so high from the fear of judgement I tend to bottle everything up.

This is why I feel what my colleague did yesterday was so important.  That seemingly small gesture for a chat, a shoulder to cry on, or even a conversation over email if talking face to face seems scary; that could be the difference between somebody feeling like all hope is lost and getting the help they need and deserve.

If I only ever ask one thing of you, it's that you ask your colleagues, friends and family from time to time how they really are.  Start that conversation, because things aren't always what they seem, and by asking that simple question you could save a life.
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