As a mental health advocate, I’d planned a number of things as part of Mental Health Week 2016.
A series of posts. Bombarding social media. Sharing info and resources. Even attending events in person (I know right – this introvert planned to step-out-of-the- house!).
Well, plans being plans, it all fell in a heap due to the passing of a loved one from suicide (the 3rd in 4 years).
Hell, I don’t care that I’m missing events. I don’t care that I missed the opportunity to produce some pretty awesome content. I don’t event care that I missed the chance to make some good connections.
None of it matters.
None of it.
What does matter is that I’m left wondering what I could have done, again.
If I could have said something.
Could I have done something?
Could I have helped with something?
Could I have got off my ass, stepped away from the computer, or work, and the rest, to take some time out to spend with that person. I mean, if anyone could have seen the signs, recognised what the person was going through, it should have been me, right?
But that’s what suicide does.
It leaves you thinking.
It leaves you wondering.
It leaves you asking ‘what more‘ and ‘why‘?
Those thoughts are a natural response to a traumatic event.
Standing up to stigma
Some people have mentioned to me over the years how the public domain ain’t the forum for this kind of sharing, and that it makes them uncomfortable. Or that they don’t want to see it.
Every time I post about mental health people unfollow me. They unsubscribe. They unlike.
If you don’t want to see it, I’m sorry, but I need to do my bit to stand up to stigma by speaking openly about mental health and by sharing my own experiences, both with having a mental illness, and losing loved ones to mental illness.
Because stigma hurts. And its effects can be lasting. I’m a walking testament to that. It was 1995 when it was first mentioned to me that I might have depression, but it took years to seek the treatment I needed and to recover.
I’ve said it a few times before. Life is hard. And a a lot of us struggle with it. So it’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean you are weak.
It doesn’t mean you are a failure.
It also doesn’t mean you can’t recover and go on to live a fulfilling life, because you can!
And finally, having a mental illness is also NOTHING to be ashamed of.
Reach out, speak up
I encourage you to speak up, to share your experiences, and to seek help if needed. Actually, even if you think you don’t need it – if something isn’t seeming ‘right’ talk to someone! Seek help! (Check out the deets at the end of this post).
I encourage you to practice some self-care. After all, mental health begins with ME.
I remind you that no J-O-B is more important than you health. Actually pretty much nothing is (okay, that’s a reminder to myself too).
And lastly I ask you to check on the men in your life, and to KEEP CHECKING, because a lot of them can be bloody stubborn, quiet and unsuspecting. There is also still a lot of stigma preventing them from reaching out.
For some tips to help you nurture your mental health, check out my extensive Pinterest board.
If the content of this article has caused you distress, please seek advice from a support service in your country.
24/7 crisis support (Australia)
- Lifeline 13 11 14 and www.lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 and www.kidshelp.com.au
- MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 and www.mensline.org.au
24/7 crisis support (US) toll free