Today is World Mental Health Day.
It’s supposed to be a day where we raise awareness and open our minds to those among us who are struggling under the attack of their own brain chemicals. On social media, I see people posting hints and tips and pieces about their own suffering – and this warms my heart. As someone who suffers from a chronic illness, I’ve found that depression kinda comes hand in hand with my physical suffering. Any avenue that helps others understand that we don’t choose to be “Debbie Downers” or throw “self-pity” parties (like who the fuck said I’m not allowed to have pity for myself over my own shitty situation?) or mopey or sad all the time or “not resilient” or annoyingly negative is a good thing in my mind.
Unfortunately, there’s always the posts that are blatantly disrespectful or subtly dressed up as understanding when in truth they’re determined to undermine. You know the ones… they come from those people who think if we exercised more or drank more water or meditated for longer or asked our doctor to hook us up to a drip that mainlined motherfucking sunshine straight into our veins, that the bloody chemical imbalance in our brain would cease to effect us. Maybe they’re right in some cases? Maybe they’re so full of shit their eye colour is a clear mud brown? It doesn’t matter. These insidious explanations and opinions play into our own dark thoughts about how this really is our fault because everyone else seems to be “normal” and “doing okay” and they do exactly what they’re designed to do – make the poster feel superior.
Maybe you can tell that these posts piss me off? Because they do. To the degree where I have to physically remove myself from social media so I don’t end up posting something “unprofessional”. You see, while I’m an neurotic mess on the inside, I actually appear pretty stoic on the outside. I’m the sarcastic one who’s always there with a quick line and a helping hand. People actually think I have my shit together (have my blue eyes turned brown yet?).
Little do they know, hey?
So, like I said, today is World Mental Health Day. Let’s revisit the statistics (quoted from Beyond Blue), shall we…
- 3,000,000 Australian’s suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
- That’s 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men. Personally, I think those numbers should be much higher because we all know someone who’s slipped through the cracks and should be added to those stats.
- At any one time, 45% of the world’s population is experiencing a mental health issue. It is LITERALLY the leading cause of disability worldwide.
- Only 35% of that 3,000,000 reported will seek help, and that’s mainly women.
- Only one in four men will seek help – and after that initial outreach, that number drops in half again to one in eight of the men who have sought an initial appointment (not the total men suffering).
- Chronic illness is the main contributor to mental health issues. Yay, me. Over 40% of people with a chronic illness will develop a mental health condition.
- Financial hardship, job loss, and relationship problems are the next leading contributors.
- Out of the estimated 3,000,000 people with depression and/or anxiety, 25% will be battling a substance use disorder at the same time.
Sounds pretty fucking bleak, doesn’t it? And that’s just the statistics gathered in Australia. In some corners of the world those stats can double. I also think they’re under-reported in the first place. Like I said previously, we all know someone who’s fallen through the cracks and could quite easily be added to those numbers.
Doesn’t that scare the living shit out of you? I know it does me. Not just because I am one of those statistics, but because of how easily the people we love could become another one.
The numbers I just quoted are for depression and anxiety. They grow day by day, hidden from sight, laughed at, brushed off, and excused away. We as a society don’t seem to want to take mental health seriously. Break a leg, everyone wants to sign your cast. Break your mind, almost everyone wants to pretend you don’t exist.
Which leads me to the Big Kahuna.
Three syllables. A label that rolls off the tongue like a caress.
the intentional taking of one’s own life.
destruction of one’s own interests or prospects: Buying that house was financial suicide.
a person who intentionally takes his or her own life.
The definition just lays it all there. Pulls no punches and offer no excuses.
Yet, I bet you’re like me and you shy away from even saying the word?
I’d almost bet you’ve been touched by suicide, though? It seems like most of us have lately.
The statistics for suicide are bad. Like make you sick to your stomach bad, and they’re only getting worse.
- An average of eight Aussies a day take their own life
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian’s aged between 15 and 44 – male or female
- Half of the people who attempt suicide do not attend any post-attempt treatment
- Another 10% of those only seek assistance for one week
- A further 38% stop treatment within three months
- Fifteen to twenty-five percent will attempt suicide again and 5-10% will be successful
- SIXTY-TWO THOUSAND Australian’s attempt suicide a year
- Out of those numbers, men account for 75%, and that’s just the reported numbers. It is suggested by research that for every successful (fuck, I hate that word in this context) attempt, there is 100-200 unsuccessful attempts.
Doesn’t that blow your mind? It both blows my mind and hurts my heart. It’s also a sad indictment of the current state of our society. The questions these stats raise are scary – Why are people getting to the point where they believe that death is the only alternative? What can we do as a society to help stem the numbers? What are we doing wrong as a society to cause this? What can the government and health organisations offer to assist those in need? How do we let people who are suffering know about the services that currently exist? What would make them reach out to those services? How do suicides and suicide attempts affect family and friends. How can friends and family help reduce the number of additional attempts?
The what’s, why’s, and how’s are never-ending. They are hard to answer, and they are fucking confronting.
They are still easier to answer than the why’s that remain after someone takes their own life.
Three weeks ago, one of my oldest friends committed suicide. Nathan (known to all whom loved him as Skinny) was that friend we all have. You know the one… the lovable larrikin, the one who was always ready for a party, the one who made everyone laugh, the peacemaker, the troublemaker, the helper, the listener, the last one to leave, the first one to arrive. The one that you take for granted because they’re always there. They’re always smiling. They’re always telling you that everything’s gonna be all right.
Watch that friend.
Mental health conditions aren’t visible like a broken leg. Sometimes they come without signs. Sometimes they are accompanied by too many signs. Sometimes we ignore the signs. Sometimes the signs don’t fit in a neat box wrapped with a goddamned ribbon.
Watch that friend.
Watch that friend… and your other friends. Your mum. Your dad. Your brother. Your sister. Your cousin. Your aunt. Your uncle. The dude who lives across the road. The woman you see at the gym.
And while you’re at it, be kind. Be humble. Be solid. Ask questions. Listen to hear, not to respond.
Be the friend you would want to have if you were struggling.
Because the questions left behind are harder to live with than the swallowing of your pride and reaching out to a fellow human without being asked. The why’s that will keep you up at night if they do take their own life are the stuff of nightmares. Asking someone if they’re okay and truly listening is a hell of a lot easier than picking up the pieces of shattered family and friends afterward.
Trust me, I got to experience it first hand a week and a half ago.
Today is World Mental Health Day.
I don’t have the answers to our current mental health crisis.
I don’t expect you to, either.
It’s a complex puzzle of societal values, demographics, culture, emotions, brain chemistry, age, feelings, desire, finances, wants, locations, needs, and personality.
It’s as individual as each of us.
What I do believe is that together, as a society that cares for each other, as a culture that puts reaching out above feeling superior to, as individuals who take the time to show the ones we love that they matter, we can make a difference to these statistics. We can work together to reduce the numbers. We can work together to raise awareness. We can work together to become more understanding. We can work together to show people that they are not alone.
It might be a challenge, but there are easy ways for us all to start.
Especially you, annoying social media poster, all alone up there on your high horse…
You wouldn’t post that your friend with the briefly broken leg needs to think more positive, would you?
So maybe, just fucking maybe, you shouldn’t post the same thing about your friend who’s brain is temporarily broken.
Think about it.
If you’re struggling or know someone who is, reach out to them or direct them toward the services that are trained to help.
LIFELINE – www.lifeline.org.au/ OR CALL 13 11 14
BEYOND BLUE – www.beyondblue.org.au/ OR CALL 1300 224 636
HEAD TO HEALTH – https://headtohealth.gov.au/
MENTAL HEALTH AMERICA – http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/ OR CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
MENTAL HEALTH U.K. – https://www.mentalhealth-uk.org/ OR CALL 116 123
The Lifeline Canada Foundation – https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/ OR CALL 1-833-456-4566
SA FEDERATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH – http://www.safmh.org.za/ OR CALL 0800 567 567
MENTAL HEALTH FEDERATION OF NEW ZEALAND – https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/ OR CALL 0800 543 354