Updated: May 2, 2021
Despite having ‘Mental Health Awareness‘ week, ’Say NO To Drug’ campaigns, ‘Suicide Prevention‘ week, helplines, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Drug Rehab centers, Mental Health facilities, family support - we still end up losing our loved ones.
At the height of depression, anxiety, a mental breakdown - these poor souls suffer in silence. They walk around with smiles on their faces, without letting anyone know that they are not doing well and need our help. Sometimes it's the shame that keeps them quiet, sometimes it's not wanting to hurt the family, sometimes it's the feeling - I’ve got this!
They are not able to articulate ‘hey my serotonin and dopamine levels are low, I need HELP’. Mental illness is not like cancer or high blood pressure. It’s not ‘normal’ to check in with someone who is battling mental illness, addiction, and depression. You won‘t have a teacher, colleague, neighbor, or peer ask you ‘How are you doing mentally and emotionally’? The individual ends up being very good at hiding their symptoms and feelings. They don’t want to be singled out as not being ‘normal’. In the end, they bottle up their feelings and thoughts to a point of destruction.
Obviously, the helplines are not working, the one-week campaigns are not helping, the rehab centers are not working, the therapist is not always present, so how can we support these individuals? How can we avoid having a parent, a spouse, a sibling, or a friend stand beside a casket whispering ‘Should Have, Could Have, but Didn’t’.
We as a society, as a community need to normalize Mental Illness and Addiction. We need to make mental illness, addiction, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation part of our daily conversations. How can we help someone with Mental Illness and Addiction when society and families don’t ‘Normalize’ the disease. How is the person supposed to not feel shame, guilt, anger, and hopelessness? How is the person supposed to reach out for help when they also don’t believe that they are suffering from a disease.
When engulfed with loneliness and hopelessness, a person is sure to turn to drugs to numb the pain or suicide ideation. When they have lost all hope, when they feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel they turn to drugs, self-harm, and/or suicide. At that moment they are not thinking of calling their sponsor, or a helpline, or their therapist, or a loved one. All they can think of is ‘the magic happy pill’ or ending the misery once and for all.
So my question throughout the years has been:
HOW CAN I SUPPORT YOU...
The question ‘How Can I Support You‘ played a very important part in our daily conversations and check-ins with Lilly. In the past, Lilly was able to articulate what support she needed. This time round she hid her decline from everyone very well. She writes about feeling shame, feeling that she was not good enough, feeling like she had failed. When a cancer patient has to go through another round of chemotherapy there is a whole tribe supporting them. Why does a patient suffering from mental illness, addiction, and depression not have that same tribe and support? Why is relapse looked down upon? Why is the patient hesitant to reach out for support?
Maybe if we treated mental illness, addiction, and depression like cancer we would succeed in saving these individuals from self-destruction, self-harm, and suicide. If we could show these individuals love, acceptance, worthiness - maybe the helplines and resources would prove to be more effective. We as a society, as a community have the responsibility of rehabilitating these individuals and making them feel that they matter.
Towards the end the question ‘How can I support you’ was met with the answer - I’m going to my meetings, I'm meeting with my therapist once a week, I’m doing what I need to do, I have this under control, I’m taking my meds, I’m doing well. All Lies. I knew Lilly was on a decline. I knew she was using, I knew things weren’t right. The mistake I made was not orchestrating an intervention immediately. I waited for her to come to me, I waited for her to make the appointment, I waited for her to say ‘Mum, I Need Help’. I paid a very heavy price for waiting and not supporting...