Reflecting on the recent death of Mike Thalassitis I want to talk CALM and I want to talk about the realities of reality. I am shocked to hear that mental health problems will affect 1 in 4 of us in our lifetime, this could range from addictions, depression, eating disorders or anxiety. Mental health is usually triggered by biological factors, trauma, abuse, stress and worry perhaps by relationship/ family issues, debt, work, bereavement or living situations. Mental health can spiral out of control and in many instances start to interfere with our ability to cope day to day or carry on at all.
However in some instances there may be no pattern to someones behaviour, sporadic and very intermittent tell tale signs make it very difficult to monitor. Which is why it is difficult to recognise in some people who hide behind a smile and bubbly personality as you just assume they are ok. As a society we're programmed to start many conversations off by "how are you?" or "I hope you're ok" but why has this phrase become so cliché? Has technology and social media interfaces stripped us back as humans to truly care or show empathy? We have lost the ability to hold deep meaningful conversations with the people around us and as dead beat eyes beyond a phone screen or keyboard we are fuelled with a false sense of reality by what we assume is a true perception of someones life or wellbeing by what is portrayed on social media.
I have so many frustrations and questions. Why is there such a huge stigma surrounding mental health in males; when 16 people a day in the UK commit suicide and 12 of those are men! Is death and suicide really a permanent solution to a fixable problem and why are so many people so lonely but once they are gone…so loved.
Are we the problem, when we could be the prevention? Is the lack of education surrounding mental health why so many families don't understand how to support or recognise cries for help!
We’re products of a cruel world of stereotypes and sadly men in particular have to hide behind the “act like a man” image they feel impelled to hold. The image that men MUST be masculine, show no weakness; that boy’s don’t cry, and talking about your feelings makes you vulnerable. And as a result these stereotypes create a dark world of social stigmas surrounding mental health or allow little room for speaking up.
As a mother to a little boy, I will raise him to know discussing his feelings and having the courage to speak up does not make him weak. It does not define him as a man, husband or friend nor should he ever be forced to man up or follow suit just because. He will be raised as equal to females in all aspects including emotional and mental health and Adam and I will continue to show him that boys and men do cry and if life gets too much it’s ok not to be ok. The world is changing we don’t live in the 60’s anymore, and from personal experiences I have witnessed what is does to a “man” who has been raised to show no emotion or fear. What is does to your mental state to continually suppress your worries and sadness just because you’re a “man”. The “COWARDS” enforcing this behaviour are normally the ones most insecure and pained. This doesn’t make you brave, this doesn’t make you macho, telling someone to ‘man up’ just makes you weak.
Personally, as time goes on I find my anxiety easier to talk about, easier to understand and easier to manage. I’m not scared of how it makes me feel anymore, and I try not to let the bad days consume me. The hardest part for me is knowing and choosing who to confide in, when to speak up and admit I’m having a “bad day” or admit I’m not coping. The biggest issue we have in society these days is people aren’t knowledgeable enough to even begin to understand the complexity of it all if they’ve never suffered. And there are no allowances for mental health in deemed happy people. I’m referring to the ones that wear the smile and voice the big voices. So is it easier all together to avoid the conversation if someone “seems” ok.
One of my biggest downfalls is my high expectations of people. How would I handle the knock back and disappointment if I laid all my cards on the table and someone responded with “everyone has those days, brush it off!” How would that sit within my head or affect me when I’ve just bottled up the courage to speak out? I totally get it. And I get why a “MAN” would feel the same way, why? because we’re all human! Male or female sex doesn’t determine levels of pain or suffering. If a male and a female both suffered a stab wound a man wouldn’t bleed less, so stop assuming or categorising metal health status or mental pain thresholds.
Mental health is the loneliest place to live, everyone copes and suffers in different ways and sometimes the happiest and most smiley people are the saddest.
I had my first panic attack in 2010, the weight of my little world became too much and I allowed it to consume me. And since then to this day I have always struggled with my mental health. Fuelled and worsened by events and people in my life that have destroyed me, stripped me of my dignity and forever damaged my self esteem.
I will not apologise for who I am, or how my life has been shaped by mental health. I will not apologise for being sensitive or expecting too much of those around me. I will not apologise for my “miserable” face or mood on those bad days ,nor will I apologise for my ability to not trust when I have been so let down by people not understanding the demons in my head. My depression was fuelled by my frustration that people didn’t understand, I used to cradle my knees and scream at Adam sobbing “why don’t you know how to make this better, why are you saying all the wrong things, why am I feeling this way, make this go away” so not only didn’t I have the answers neither did the people around me and I just felt so failed by my family and friends. There were no allowances because I always appeared generally happy and everyone just assumed or branded me dramatic on the bad days.
I contemplated and attempted suicide. I wanted to die and I felt like it was the only solution. But thankfully I received the right support, the people around me recognised my struggles to carry on, I received specialist (non-medicinal) help, and I’m managing. Adam read books, he watched youtube videos ( https://youtu.be/XiCrniLQGYc ) and he tried to empathise and create healthy distractions.
The issue is people need to break the stigma that physical health conditions need more support, empathy and compassion than mental health conditions. WE NEED to unite and step away from the stereotype that BOYS DON’T CRY because they fucking do!
And until you’ve walked a mile in a sufferers shoes don’t be so quick to judge or dismiss their feelings. That’s so easy to do. Think outside of your everyday box, be kind, spread love, speak up, make time and open your eyes. Through judging we separate, through understanding we grow. Really mean the concern, and check in always. Every face wears a mask and a smile is the most formidable mask life has to offer. Mental health comes in all shapes, genders, religions, sizes, bodies and personalities so I want to say thank you to those around me who know my struggles, never pass judgement and love me for me.
Mike Thalassitis was not just a number that day, he was not just a 1 in 16 statistic, he was a beautiful soul taken too early that in my opinion the world and society failed because of POOR mental health education. This was no ones fault, no one is to blame nor should his family or friends feel responsible for his death but I do believe something needs to happen. The world needs educating, parent’s need to encourage their children to talk about their feelings implementing this from a young age and more stringent, frequent and throughout support needs to be offered to those who are known to health care professionals.
If you’re concerned about your mental health (or about someone close to you), please talk to your GP/ relative. If you want to talk it over first, give CALM a call. The people at CALM are non-judgemental and will give you the chance to explain the way you feel, and help you on what to do next. Their helplines are open 5pm-Midnight 365 days a year on 0800 585858. - The ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’
Here are some signs you may recognise either if you’re feeling these yourself or someone close to you is struggling and may need help;
• Feeling sad or uncontrollably crying with no explanation.
• Reduced ability to concentrate (blurred vision or spots in eye sight.)
• Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
• Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
• Withdrawal from friends and activities
• Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
• Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
• Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
• Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Major changes in eating habits
• Aches and pains (flu like symptoms)
• Excessive anger, hostility or violence
• Suicidal thinking
Please talk to someone, please understand it’s ok not to be ok, and you will get through
this with the right help and support. Take a deep breath, be brave and pick up the phone. You are not alone. You are so loved.