It’s ok not to be ok.

Hi thank you for visiting.

Another week another celebrity (sort of) death. As I work with a lot of mental health clients at my practice in Haverhill, I do think it’s a shame that it takes someone in the media to highlight the sad facts of suicide especially in males in the UK. However another way of thinking is that it at least it does highlight the scary figures. Here are just some that I find staggering.

  • In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female.
  • Between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems took their own life in the UK.
  • Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
  • One person in fifteen had made a suicide attempt at some point in their life.
  • The suicide rate in Scotland rose by 8% between 2015 and 2016, with 728 suicides registered in Scotland in 2016.

Sadly the first one I’m not totally surprised at as 95% of my clients are woman. Women will realise they have a problem. They talk to each other and in a lot of cases they do something about it. Whereas us men DON’T TALK about it, we pretend we are all okay and very few will ask for help. Then when we realise that we do have a problem it’s taken a grip.

So what can we do to help?

Well the first thing is talk, ask questions, open up,  I appeal to all ladies, if you think there may be something wrong or playing on their minds, talk to your partner, your dads, your male friends. Show them you care. Let them know you want to help and if you can’t help let them know there are plenty of people out their who want to help.

Recently I’ve come across a number of articles/blog posts about what not to say to a friend/loved one with certain mental health problems. Whilst these are useful, as it’s hard to know what comments could affect others more than you, constantly hearing ‘don’t say this’ and ‘don’t say that’ can make people feel like they have to tiptoe around people who are struggling. This feeling is not necessary and can make the conversation even harder to have than it already is, or prevent it from happening altogether. This would only increase the feelings of isolation and loneliness that the sufferer may already be going through. So, instead of that, I thought I’d share 10 ideas about what to say to a friend/loved one with mental health problems.

1) ‘How are you?’ The number of people who’ve told me they feel as if they’re prying by asking someone who they know is struggling how they are is shocking. Mental health problems or not, we are all people and sometimes we’re okay, other times we’re not. You don’t have to advise or provide solutions if we’re not; just listen and be a friend.

2) ‘Do you want to go out on …?’ Personally I didn’t withdraw myself socially when I was struggling, (I felt best with my friends), but I know that many people do. Don’t stop inviting them to nights out and events because of their struggles, instead, try to help them live a ‘normal’ life and show that you don’t judge them and you appreciate their company.

3) ‘You deserve to be happy.’ Whether it’s due to the illness itself, self-stigma or poor support, many people with mental health problems come to the conclusion that they deserve to feel the way they do. This can mean they don’t get the support they need. Your words could encourage them to get help sooner rather than later.

4) ‘I’m so glad you’re in my life.’ Something I’ve been thinking about a lot these days is how we express our love and appreciation for people so much more after they pass, when they can’t hear it anymore. I wish we expressed more before this.

5) ‘Remember when…’ Sometimes things seem so dark that it’s hard to remember there was ever light. Talk about good memories. Plan to make more.

6) ‘You’re not a weirdo.’ Having different thoughts or feelings to the people around you can make you feel like you don’t fit in or ‘belong’. Remind your friend/loved one that you love them for who they are, and they are not just their illness.

7) ‘You can be honest with me.’ People struggling often feel like no one understands, forgetting that no one can understand unless they share what they’re going through – ask them. Being that person they know they can share everything with is one of the most rewarding and beautiful you can do.

8) ‘Do you want to go for a walk?’ We are indoors way too much these days. Take in some fresh oxygen and do some deep breathing with your friend to slow those racing thoughts down.

9) ‘How is treatment going?’ Treatment is a difficult and emotional process, and having someone to talk to about it (other than professionals) can be really helpful. Don’t feel the need to tiptoe around the subject. Fight the stigma; the person struggling will probably really appreciate it.

10) ‘Would you like a hug?’ This one doesn’t really need an explanation, does it?

Overall my message is to just show kindness and compassion, interact with them as normally as possible and don’t dismiss or minimise the pain they may be experiencing. It’s difficult to see a loved one suffer so look after yourself too.

I hope this helps and if any of my family or friends are reading this and they want to talk my door is always open, I won’t make judgements, I won’t laugh it off and I will not dismiss it.

Sorry this blog was a bit glum but I think it’s important that we notice what is going on around us.

Have a lovely week  and I will see you next time.

Best wishes

Jon XX

Ps. If you local I’m having an impromptu open morning tomorrow. Visit fb.me/adkin23 for more details.  I will have the kettle on, it would be great to see you.

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