Two things got me thinking about mental health this week. The first was a Facebook post from a friend in the US asking us all to pray for a family she knows who’ve just lost their teenage daughter to suicide. The second was an article in the Guardian entitled ‘Mental patient’ Halloween costumes: a scientific guide to dressing accurately.
I’m pretty certain you’ll realise the article’s title is tongue-in-cheek and was written in order to attract attention, but have you ever wondered why it’s necessary to draw people in with wit or humour in order to get them reading about such an important subject? That same article has used images in order to make its point, you know, just in case the words only get skimmed over. We have a photo of a person in a zombie costume in striking contrast with (the same) photos of an ordinary couple in quiet discussion depicting first Depression, then Schizophrenia, then Addiction, then Dementia and finally Anxiety. The image’s repitition making the point that we have as much chance of identifying people suffering with mental health from simply the way they look as I do of becoming an astronaut.
True, some sufferers aren’t always able to overcome their symptoms to appear “normal”, but far more are able to so do. They work hard at suppressing their visible symptoms – for many reasons. Some are simply intensely private, others are parents or carers for a vulnerable adult who they don’t want to worry, some may be fearful of losing a vital job or source of income if their mental health struggles become known, let alone those who are fearful of becoming isolated, or being looked at “that” way and then avoided. But if you take the time to read the words, you could begin to get an idea of what it feels like to suffer from these various forms of mental health and to feel empathy with the constant struggle, the heavy load which the variances and the subtle nuances the various condition cause you to bear.
How many times have you read of families who have lost a member to suicide and wondered how they didn’t know and if they did know, why they didn’t prevent it? Certainly we’re all human to have had those thoughts, equally I hope we are as aware that we are all imperfect human beings and as imperfect human beings, we cannot catch everything. Sometimes the individual is determined, because – for them – life is simply not worth living. A person cannot be emotionally pressed into finding something or someone in their lives more important than their mental health issue; all we can do is love them, support them and hope thats enough for them to be able to stay.
The widow of Robin Williams has made public that he was suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, little known (and horribly hard to diagnose) despite being the second most common form of Dementia after Alzheimers. His doctor has been quoted as saying that the bright star we all knew and loved, not only knew he was rapidly losing his mind but that his prognosis was for only another three years. From the opposite end of the spectrum, many struggle with wildly fluctuating hormones during times such as puberty, mid-life and menopause. These, too, can push a person with mental health issues over the edge. Yet how does the layman judge when PMT/PMS becomes a potential symptom in feeling suicidal?
So, lets not judge others who have lost a loved one, or who decide they are unable to cope with a loved one who has mental health issues, for one day that may be us. Let us be kind and understanding to those who suffer … and to those who care for and about them.
Let us remain aware that others may be suffering – perhaps its just a bad day, but maybe they have a mental health condition that they are struggling to live with. Be kind, be thoughtful, be supportive – if you can. For, again, one day that may be us and surely we would hope to have our kindness passed forward.
© 2015 Caring Coaching
originally posted 25th November 2015