Saturday 10th October 2020 is World Mental Health Day
Those suffering mental health problems live with it everyday, and so there is no specific one day to talk and share our own experiences in order to support others. Whilst World Mental Health Day each year aims to focus the minds of the public, it is something we need to talk about everyday.
This July, Unionsafety website’s editor undertook the Samarathon 2020 Challenge in order to raise funds for a charity which can be truly life saving – The Samaratans.
Here is his personal story:
We all have two faces; the one we see when we look into the mirror alone and behind closed doors, and the one we present to the world, our families, friends, and work colleagues.
Living with domestic violence as a child can damage lives, relationships with siblings, one's own adult relationships, and permanently damage one's own mental health.
It becomes a lifelong legacy of struggle for many of those children growing up in a home were there is no escape from domestic violence, and where as a child, you are forced to make decisions, and take on roles that even an adult and mature mind struggle with.
Growing up in such an environment in the '50s and 60's was particularly hard in a society which saw domestic violence as simply a private home-life affair that no one had the right to interfere with, especially the police and the judiciary.
But what has all this got to do with my taking part in the Samarathon 2020 and World Mental Health Day, you may be asking?
Well, one of the most serious forms of damage that is inflicted upon children growing up in such a home environment is that which is permanent and life-long and inflicted upon their mental health.
In my case, I had been diagnosed as suffering from anxiety and depression by my GP at the age of 13, and only later in life as having been suffering for most of my life with PTSD.
As I said in the opening paragraph, we all have two faces, and the world would never see my true face; until the fight to hide it became too great. Even then only a selected or accidental few, if any; ever saw it. Locking myself away, unable to cope with anyone actually discovering my true persona when looking into my eyes.
Some times, it is impossible to hide. I remember vividly one of my worst days. Being on a Mersey Ferry heading to Liverpool and standing against the rails on the top deck. I noticed few passengers where on the top deck, save for a couple of blokes chatting and drinking a can each. I suppose I had stood there staring into the waves, and with the odd looking up at the view as we approached the pier head; for most of the ten minute journey.
Without noticing their approach, both blokes were next to me. One of them said to me, “You are just going home, aren’t you?” His face had a look of concern on it. All I could say was, “Yeah, I am.”
Those simple words were enough to shake me out of the depth, and indeed shocked me that anyone could tell what was going through my mind.
During the 80s, 90s and the early 2000s, work pressures and stress got so bad I could not cope. Hence, the occasions of reaching the depths of depression and anxiety so deep I could see no way out, indeed on two occasions when I did not even want to get out of the depths of fatalistic acceptance of there being only one way out; the Samaritans and subsequently, friends I could open up to and counselling saved my life. In reality, counselling has been a necessity at several stages of my life.
Without knowing it, my friends and family were saving me too. As had the simple words of a stranger on a ferry crossing that spring day, some years ago.
But people see mental health problems as being just in your head. The reality is that it can kill – the stress can kill – and can lead to serious health issues, some that remain for the rest of one’s life.
Our mental health journey is like the search for Pandora's Box, from which all the evil of the crisis of our mental state comes forth. But, the last thing to fall from within it is hope. The HOPE to survive, which was previously buried by the volcanic eruption of depression, desperation, anxiety, panic and shattered self-worth.
I have been very lucky, unlike so many populating that spiralling whirlpool of hopelessness, that black void of despair where the natural urge for self preservation and survival can no longer consciously exist; and from which the Hope within Pandora's Box of mental health crisis is light years away.
But I was eventually able to grasp it, with talking and clinical help; without which there would have been no survival.
Yes, all the understanding and the misery of my mental and emotional state, and how I got there; had to eventually come tumbling out like huge rocks in a landslide cascading down the side of a mountainous valley through which I had no choice but to tread and suffer the bruising and bloodshed those boulders caused as I watched for the last thing to finally fall out into my hands from within Pandora's Box - the HOPE of getting through this and finding the tools which would help me cope with, and understand the realities of the true face of my mental health.
The Samaritans have helped save not only mine but thousands of lives, and I owe them.
Sadly, I have known personally, of too many people who have taken their own lives and I am sure at least 1 in 4 of you out there have also been close to being unable to cope with mental health problems.
The Samaritans is a much needed service, and now more than ever; and so it is only right that I embarked this July upon the small task of raising much needed funds so the organisation can expand and continue to save the lives of the desperate, the lonely, the unseen, the often judged and misunderstood human beings for whom life no longer seems to be worth living.
This terrible stigma can cost lives, as it maintains the view that only weak people suffer mental health crisis and have to take pills for their mind.
If you had a broken leg, would you think twice about pain relief or getting the leg treated? Of course not! So why is getting ‘pain relief’ and help for your tortured mind such a problem? Why does our society and men in particular, see this as a failure, a weakness? Why do so many ignorant people say that ‘Suicide is a coward’s way out’?
It takes a very strong person to face their demons, and control the ‘flight or fight’ response to danger built into all human beings psyche. That includes the ultimate ‘flight’ response. For some, life truly isn’t worth living and it is up to others to help them find the value in their lives, and that they are loved and wanted.
Help is just a ‘talk’ away, and we should all do our bit for those lost in that spiralling void which, for some, too often leads to drug and alcohol dependency and abuse; and ultimately the end of their lives.
Hence why I undertook this year’s Samarathon and raised £431 thanks to friends and family for this much needed charity. I intend to do the same next year and all I can to help remove the stigma that mental health illness still holds for almost 1 in 4 people at some time in their lives.
Look after the mental health of your family, friends, and loved ones; and of course your own during these worrying Covid-19 times.