Today is World Mental Health Day, and according to the Mental Health Foundation about a quarter of the British public will suffer with some form of mental health problem within the course of a year, mild anxiety and depression being the most common.
It makes me sad that in a world where we have become so (rightly) concious about our physical health and wellbeing, it is still a difficult act to admit out loud that you suffer from mental health issues, and to get the support you need.
When I first went to the GP as a worried and teary 19 year old, she hardly blinked before prescribing me with anti-depressants and I didn’t think twice about taking them. Depression is a big black cloud to a young person, the kind of thing experienced by people who go through trauma and difficult situations; not reasonably chirpy teenagers. It would take six months before I could be slotted in to speak for 45 minutes with a professional psychologist, but those little tablets could be in my hands within the half an hour it took the pharmacist to dispense them.
I have seen with my own eyes how important medication can be to those who suffer with mental health issues on any point of the spectrum – friends who have suffered severely have had their lives turned around by the right tablets, giving them the chance to live a normal life with a clearer mind. It has given them the power to be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without fear of their condition standing in the way. It has given their nearest and dearest peace of mind and faith in a future that is bright and not littered with the worry of hospitals and breakdowns.
For me, medication planted the foundations for my ‘good place’ – after a year or two of taking regular tablets, I found myself to be in a comfortable enough position to stop taking anything and work on maintaining my good place with other methods. I found a routine, I worked on improving my sleeping patterns, I concentrated on getting healthier and all the way through I was and still am surrounded by my network of lovely supporters.
Stephen Fry once said that it’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do – as happens with most things this glorious man says, I completely agree with him.
I am lucky enough to have a unit of nearest and dearest who have seen me in the brightest of light and the darkest of shade. They have handled my excessive excitement when I am having a good day, bubbling over into annoying territory most probably. They have helped me when I am sad and quiet with no particular reason to be. They have coped with irrational thoughts, and mini breakdowns, and floods of tears, and texts at ridiculous o’clock. And yet they remain. It is definitely hard for them, but they are definitely the kindest and noblest people I know.
For some people medication is something that is imperative for them to lead a normal life. For others, medication is a safety net to be used when someone needs to be brought back to a healthy place before they can take on the rest of the journey themselves.
Whoever it is and whatever their relationship with tablets, I can guarantee that having supportive people around is the best supplementary therapy there is. Being supportive isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – there are days when you need a rational voice to cut through all the gibberish messing with your head, and sometimes that voice needs to say things you don’t want to hear. It is hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but as harsh as that voice can sound there will come a day when you can look back and see that that voice did good.
It makes me sad to know that there are lovely, bright and beautiful people in my own circle of friends and accquaintances who cannot speak about their depression. It makes me sad to think of all those people who suffer completely in silence. Statistically we will all know someone who suffers with a mental health issue, and whether it’s severe or mild or there is medication involved or not, someone who cares can be the best therapy there is.
The more we talk to our friends and family and the more open we are about mental health issues, the easier it gets to admit when there is a problem and the easier it is to get the right help. There don’t need to be fanfares or blogs written or t-shirts emblazoned with ‘I’M CHEMICALLY IMBALANCED’, but even the thought that support is out there should you need it can be all you need to keep going.
On this World Mental Health Day I would like to say thank you to everyone who keeps me going through the peaks and troughs of my own journey with depression – from the 1am call answerers to the people I’ve never met who are reading this blog right now, thank you. In your own way you are a friend to someone who is depressed and although it is hard, it makes you kind and noble.