September, it appears, is Suicide Prevention Month.
I know this because Facebook told me. There are times in my life that social media is the only opportunity I get to know what’s going on in the world. I get caught up in stuff, the kids take over the TV (have watched 706 renditions of the same 5 episodes of The Office in the last month), and I need to escape from the world, so I just don’t go out of my way to find out what’s going on.
I’m going to make a frank admission here, which is probably going to sound contradictory given I am a self-professed advocate for mental health … I didn’t actually know if September is officially Suicide Prevention Month in Australia. If it is a national thing, and which country the ‘national’ applies to, or if it is international. What about the countries where suicide is ‘all in your head’ and not a ‘real thing’? Or where it is not considered a health issue, but a selfish individual issue? Those places where it is deemed sinful or against God’s will?
Do they have to be involved if they don’t believe that suicide is a ‘thing’?
Anyhoo, I heard about it on Facebook, because a whole bunch of people are putting this in their status box thingo:
September is Suicide Prevention month. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all of those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just needs to know that someone cares? Do it for all of us, nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!! I did it for a friend and you can too. xx
Does this actually do anything?
Or does it simply make people feel like they’re actually doing something for a good cause, even if only for an hour?
See, for me, who has been in that place where suicide seems not only the best option, but the only option, this would do something along the lines of ‘fuck all’ in terms of supporting me.
Those of us who have really, genuinely experienced Depression know that it lies. That it is sneaky and conniving, and has all the answers. That it will drain you and bring you down, and make you say things that aren’t actually ‘you’.
Mostly, it has the capacity to convince you that suicide is not a ‘coward’s way out’. That it is not selfish, and that even though people around you may be affected by it, be sad and hurt, that your continuing to be alive is worse for them.
It tells you that they are better off without you, and it will give you every argument under the sun, convince you to the point where there are no holes to poke in its argument, and you have nothing left to argue against it.
For the record, I don’t believe for a moment that suicide is ‘cowardly’. I believe it is the act of someone who has reached the end of their tether and beyond. I have been there. I get it.
And to be perfectly frank, your status updates are not in the least bit supportive, helpful, or empathetic. They suck.
A person who is Depressed, whether mildly or severely, whether they are listless or suicidal does not need a Facebook status update.
They don’t just need someone to talk to or who will listen to them. They don’t need someone telling them to get over it, to pull their socks up, to get on with life. They most certainly don’t need someone trying to convince them that things could be worse.
They don’t need someone to tell them what to do, necessarily. Especiallly if that advice is simplistic, obvious, and/or not relevant to them.
They need someone who will listen to them from the perspective of trying to understand. Remember, mental health is not a logical disease; Depression lies and convinces you of all sorts of things that make no sense to anyone outside of your head.
Hell, most of the time it convinces you of shit that makes no sense inside of your own head! You have all the physical and practical evidence to suggest you’re on the right track and doing mostly okay, humanly okay, and well within the realms of doing well, yet it can convince you that you’re a loser, a failure, will never get anywhere in life. It will vehemently advise you that you are a burden to everyone.
You don’t even need to have made a mistake for it to bring this argument up. It will do it because you drop something. It will break you down and obliterate all the logical arguments simply because it is bored.
You don’t necessarily have to have anything going on, or going wrong in your life. You may, but you also may not.
Or, rather, the person/s you are ‘showing support to’ for a whole hour on Facebook, they may not have anything obvious going on in their lives, either.
What they need is understanding. They may need you to listen, or they may need you to have the capacity to read between the lines.
They need you to really ‘get’ why they are so lacking in confidence and self-esteem, or why they don’t have the energy to get out of bed.
They need you to encourage – not tell, not guilt trip into, not advise – them to go outside and go for a walk. Or for you to just make a cup of tea for them without making a great big deal of it.
They need you to say “I love you”, “I care about you” or “You are important to me”, for no other reason than you just felt like saying it.
Not because they have had downloaded onto you all their flaws, the flaws Depression is telling them they have.
Just walk up to them and go “hey, you fucking rock”.
For no reason.
Not publicly, for an hour, so you look like you’re doing something.
If you can handle the response, asking RUOK? is not a bad idea either. But don’t do it if you’re going to say shit like “it could be worse” or “you just need to think positive”, or more of the same.
Suicide Prevention and support for those with mental health issues – and there are WAY more than what I’ve mentioned here; my only experiences are with Depression and PostNatal Depression – does not come from a few, meaningless words.
It comes from genuine thought, from the willingness not just to support, but to understand.
I haven’t even come close to covering the basics of support on this post, nor have I touched on those things that, perhaps, individuals need. I can only really address those things that I am aware of, that I have experienced and that those close to me have experienced and shared with me.
There is more to it, so much more. All I can suggest, if you really, really want to support someone who is suicidal, it to find out more about mental illness, find out more about the support you may need, because, quite frankly, people who are bipolar, depressed, schizophrenic, suicidal and anything else that falls into the range of mental illness, are draining, and obnoxious, and often self-obsessed or feel isolated.
The appear to not be listening to your advice (possibly because it is simplistic and superficial, even if meant well) and can exasperate you no end.
Check out places like Suicide Prevention Australia http://suicidepreventionaust.org/
Or LifeLine http://www.lifeline.org.au/
Just, please, don’t post the above status at all, not even for an hour, because people who are suicidal won’t care, and those who are affected by this person need more than a few copy and pasted words.
If you really want to help, be open to understanding more about mental health issues.
And if you don’t, that’s cool. We all have our things we’re passionate about, and we all have our levels of tolerance. We all have out things we like to support, or have the capacity to support, and we all have our own abilities in dealing with each of these things.
And that’s okay.