Before I start this blog, because it is such a pressing and serious issue, I want to make it clear that of course getting help, talking to someone and making steps towards recovery is everything. I never want it to come across as though i’m saying these things are pointless, if anything these are the actions which take you towards a healthier life. Talking to friends, family, medical professionals and sharing your feelings is the key to building a good support system. Accepting that you need help and actively seeking it is what you need to do to overcome your demons.
My issue is with the general reaction towards people with mental health, particularly after someone has committed suicide. Unless you live under a rock, you will be aware of the recent suicide of Prodigy star, Keith Flint. At aged 49 and after a long battle of demons and the recent separation of his wife. Social media blew up, as it does when something like this happens, with posts after posts of people addressing suicide as an issue and pleading people to speak to someone and ask for help. I want to raise awareness to exactly what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this advice.
We should never see people speaking out about mental health and encouraging people to take action as a bad thing and I would never criticise anyone for offering advice. I just have a very cynical yet realistic view on this type of reaction and I want to make it known that how we address mental health issues and how we offer support needs to change.
I am a strong believer that all lives can be saved and all suicides can be prevented. The efforts may be huge and some may only take a little guidance, but every demon and problem can be solved. It just does take a lot and we need to realise this. ‘Talk to someone’ and ‘get help’, whilst they are addressing an important issue and offering advice to some extent, does fall on deaf ears and doesn’t necessarily offer a solution.
Yes, these posts might help someone else and may raise awareness for mental health as a whole, but are they really that effective? I am speaking from experience when i say that phrases such as ‘get help’ and ‘talk to someone’ which are so commonly thrown around when mental health is brought up are just not helpful. Personally, when I was struggling, if someone said this to me I would deem it as completely purposeless, for a number of reasons.
In most areas of the UK getting help is a long task, it takes at least 6 months to get free mental health care in Leeds and probably even worse in other places. For those who have the money, you can get help right away from highly educated professionals. Quality mental health support costs around £100 per hour. Who can afford that? I just think it is madness that the more wealthy you are, the more entitled you are to better mental health. So, yes, people should definitely seek out help but there is a long list why someone may not want to try and find it: the stigma, anxious fear or even just the belief that the effort is pointless.
Saying someone should ‘get help’ is common sense. Every time someone said this to me I was so tempted to say ‘okay, but how?’ but of course that would be rude and I would never want to make anyone feel so uncomfortable. But it is so true. Yeah, we all know getting help would be the best option but there are so many complications with this. This is why there is such a big push on ‘self-help’ because we just cannot depend on the healthcare available. The way i see it, when you don’t have the money for professional therapy or you’re medication prescribed by a doctor seems to be more damaging, getting help just seems impossible.
Another one, ‘talk to someone’. This is really important, everyone should definitely talk to someone about their problems but I swear some people believe that telling someone to ‘talk to someone’ is some form of support. I just found it so unhelpful. The first problem that arises here is who you talk to. There’s a constant anxiety around people not caring, bothering people and just a general dislike for other people knowing your problems. Speaking from experience, I viewed this as a way for people to seem like they’re offering help for validation in themselves, when really all they are doing is telling you to take your problems elsewhere and deal with it.
My point is, this whole reaction to suicide and mental health does need to change. I am not saying these things should stop. I am saying that we need to change how we offer help to those who need it. There is a reason why people commit suicide even after being told to ‘get help’ – it doesn’t work! Telling someone something they already know is just pointless. Telling someone to talk to someone when they feel they have no one is not going to fix anything.
I want to make others aware of how these offers for help are perceived. Once we understand how complex mental health is and how important th first stages of help and support are, the more we can develop the services available to save more lives. The way I saw it when I was struggling and other people tell me to get help is that they don’t understand my situation and me sharing them with others will not help in the slightest – I believed that I was destined for unhappiness and no amount of talking could have solved the messes I had gotten myself into.
This may sound so hypocritical of me, being a mental health writer who constantly tells people to seek help and talk to someone. My problem isn’t with telling people to do that. When people come to me with problems or I know one of my close friends are struggling, I try to do more than tell them to get help because I know that the quality of that support is weak. I’m no medical professional, but in depth conversations and re-occurring communications and assurance go a much longer way.
Go the extra mile, do more for those you love because if they do resort to suicide you’ll wish you did. I wish I could spend every waking day with someone who is struggling to help them, but I can’t. I know life is demanding and we do have ourselves to look after too, but if you are aware of someone’s struggles don’t ignore them. Don’t simply tell them to get help without making any effort to guide them because they are most likely struggling to realise what help even is and how to access it.
Take time to learn about what’s wrong with someone, don’t just accept they’re having a bad time and they’ll get over it because they might not. The reality is, most people who do commit suicide were known to have demons, so why did we let them resort to this? Why is there suddenly a big shock that they have taken their own life when we all know that living for them was torture every day? We should not be surprised. These people had illnesses which are known to kill.
Although the stigma is weakening, there is still a major issue with support. We are simply not grasping how real depression is – it leads to suicide, it kills people every single day until they resort to taking their own life. Telling someone to talk just isn’t enough. Just because they’re living their life and getting on with things with no obvious damage to their outside exterior does not mean they aren’t dying. We need to care for our struggling loved ones before it’s too late. Educate yourself about their condition, find routes to help and provide real guidance instead of just telling them to talk to someone to feel like we’ve helped them, because we haven’t.
I don’t want anyone to feel attacked or victimised by me saying these things because I myself have told people to seek out help without giving full guidance. I simply want people to just realise that saying these things don’t have the effect we intend. We need to understand the complexity of mental health issues. These people are not just sad, they’re dying.
-Beauty by Disaster x