I just want to go on record to say that yeah, I have been diagnosed with Mental Health issues, so what Im about to write about, whilst not an expert… I know from first hand experience.
Every year, at least in Australia… they have this thing called R U OK Day… essentially its a prompt for people to check in on their friends and family and ask… Are you OK? You know… cos some random post on Facebook told me thats what today is about.
The other side of the coin are the people who post the whole “My door is always open, the kettle is always on, Im always there to listen, if you have any issues… I am here for you”.
Feels good doesnt it? A real thoughts and prayers situation.
Thats the problem today… if something bad happens, they can keep it at arms length, but send their thoughts and prayers…. yeah Im thinking about those people injured in that terrorist attack, Im praying for that little kid who was hit by a car… I’ll change my Facebook profile picture for a week, put some nice background on it… that way I can show people I care about something that doesnt impact me directly, but everyone else is saying its a big thing.
The issue is really that raising awareness is one thing, doing something about it is another. To do something, you need to be pro-active. You need to be willing to have the hard conversations, do the hard yards, take on the shitty jobs.
R U OK day really shits me up the wall. Every person I see who posts about how receptive and open they will be to anyone that needs help is missing the goddamn point. Its not about being receptive, its about seeking out and checking on people. You can SAY you care, and post a nice status about it… but really… what are you doing to make sure everyone is OK?
Mental Health is a big problem in todays society, we have skyrocketing instances of anxiety, depression, mood state disorders, ADHD, Bi-Polar, Autism, Borderline Personality disorder… essentially your brain chemistry is all skew-wiff and its not making life fun.
In the past, people would just shrug it off and get on with it. I was one of those people. I figured if I just kept on going, battling through it and getting on with it… I will be fine. I was not fine.
My biggest problem was that I felt like I had no one to talk to. I tried to talk to my friends about it, but you know… they had lives and me being a drainer meant I was too much hard work… so they kinda left me behind. My family… we’re not huggers… we’re very much a “shit happens, deal with it” type family… the job needs to get done, stop looking for excuses and get it done.
So these same people who would post that they were always there for people who needed to talk, who are feeling like they are at their wits end… same people who wouldnt take 10 minutes out of their day to talk someone down off the ledge. At least they were sending thoughts and prayers though right?
The original idea behind things like R U OK day was admirable. It was to raise awareness of mental health, to stir people into action to check on their nearest and dearest and open up the lines of communication. Its about suicide prevention. Something that is so common place today that I would wonder if there is anyone who hasnt known someone affected by suicide. I know I am… multiple times over. Its my motivation for being in the Emergency Services, so that Im not standing by idly when people need help.
The issue I feel is that people are too reactive… someone commits suicide and its all about “I didnt see it coming” or “If only they had told me what was going on”. Then of course, they usually go on a rant about how its soo unfair to them and how bad they feel.
There is a fine line between the dramatic and the cry for help. Personally I treat everything as serious, at best its a cry for help… a geniune need for attention, or to feel like they matter. If its 10 minutes out of my day (figuratively speaking).. I will give it to someone. I’ve learnt over the years that you dont need to solve their problems, most of the time they just want someone to listen.
Of course, it goes without saying that there are the Chicken Littles out there who threaten suicide because it will get them attention… and yeah, over time, it becomes less effective and people stop caring. I say “Give them your time, listen to their problems, steer them towards getting the help they need… take ownership when they cant”.
I have some events in my life that I am not entirely proud of. Given the chance I would have taken a different approach. I will forever feel guilty that I didnt do enough. I know I did all I could and all they wanted of me, but still… get me a DeLorean and Im going back…
Thats why I say that rather than be slack about peoples mental health, be pro-active. I can tell you from experience, that its not easy to open up for fear of judgement or that they will think what your going through is petty and stupid. You can tell people you’re willing to talk if they come to you.
I SAY…GO TO THEM!!! Thats what its all about. If you have a genuine concern for someone, offer to listen to them. Tell them that you think they probably just need someone to listen and thats what you’re prepared to do. If they think everything is hopeless, you will help them get the help they need. You’re not going to solve their problems, but you are gonna point them in the right direction. You are going to give them the support they need.
Its like in some companies, they do the whole morning tea and outline the company mandated “Employee Assistance Program” if you need to talk to someone, and how its confidential, how they will help you with whatever it is that ails you… but thats really impersonal. What they need is someone to convince them that it is okay to call the EAP, that its the first step in the right direction.
I would challenge any company to fire or discipline an employee who says “I am helping someone with their mental health issues”. Personally Im not the sort who needs an extra support person to come with me to the doctor, or the shrink… but some people might just need it… and part of being a good friend/relative is to do that.
Just remember, you can support someone without trying to solve their problems. Women are naturally good at this… Men, not so much… Im guilty of it, when my wife is having an issue I want to help her fix it. I want to solve the problem. I hate sitting idly by whilst she suffers knowing that all I can do is listen and support her. When Im having issues, she’s brilliant at just letting me vent, letting me talk it out and then giving me a cuddle and reminding me that everything is gonna be ok.
So next time RUOK day rolls around… think to yourself… is there anyone Im concerned about? What can I do to make sure they get the help they might just need. No judgement, no criticism… just a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.
And sure, send your thoughts and prayers and change your facebook status….