‘Happiness is a by-product of function, purpose and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war’ – William S. Burroughs
Rather than the usual ‘Quote of the Week’, today I’d like to share some statistics on something that is still widely under-discussed and misunderstood: suicide. My aim with this blog is to spread truth about mental health, so please take a second to read through these facts about something that affects so many people around the world. The following stats relate to the UK.
– 75% of people who commit suicide have had no contact with mental health services.
– In 2013, 6,233 suicides were recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older. Of these, 78% were male and 22% were female.
– Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
– Nearly 6% of adults (aged 16 and over) report having made a suicide attempt at some point in their life.
– The highest rates of suicide in the UK are among people aged over 75.
– Risk factors include: drug and alcohol misuse, unemployment, poverty, social isolation, imprisonment, violence, poor social conditions and family breakdown.
– Around 90% of suicide victims suffer from a psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
– Up to 20% of suicide survivors try again within a year, and as a group they are 100 times more likely to go on to complete suicide than those who have never attempted suicide.
If you have a problem, don’t be afraid to talk about it. There is always somebody to support you. MHL x
(Source: Mental Health Foundation)
There’s an idea that life is like an ocean on which we all float as vessels. When the water is calm and still, so are we. We can sail comfortably in the direction we choose with very few obstacles to divert our path. The wind is behind us and our sails are full. However, when the water turns choppy and the waves begin to swell and surround us, we are forced into doing whatever we can to stay above the surface. This makes us feel unsafe, insecure and anxious. When the storm really hits, we may even fall from safety into the chopping waves. At this point, we might rely on somebody’s hand to help us out of the water and back to a floating position. The waves can be very unforgiving and it sometimes feels like the sea will never again be calm. But the storm does subside. It always does. Then it could be your turn to reach out to somebody who is experiencing a storm of their own.
The point is there are some things we simply cannot control. Events, other people, our own feelings. These things tend to be sprung upon us and it can sometimes be so hard to deal with them. Just like the sea and its uncontrollable tides, there are some things we are forced to ride out. We cannot blame ourselves for these inevitabilities – this is just the same as blaming yourself for the ocean’s tide – but what we can do is teach ourselves how to deal with them. This may be through meditation, exercise, talking, shouting, screaming, swearing, not talking at all. Anything. But finding what helps you get back above the surface can be a hugely valuable thing to do. This is not always easy, I agree. But it feels like something worth working for.
Just remember: we are often not to blame for the hard times we endure, though we are may seem like the closest culprit. Be kind to yourself, listen to what your mind and body are telling you, and keep that hand free – you never know who else might need saving.
This week, NHS England vowed to be spending an extra £1bn per year on mental health services by 2020. This will include improving psychological therapies for 600,000 people, an end to people having to travel miles for care and better care for tens of thousands more young people, according to a report by Sky News.
Although this seems positive on the face of it, I sincerely hope people don’t assume mental health care is improving just because more money is being pledged to it. It can be incredibly useful, of course, but only when applied to quality, not just quantity. That’s what is really needed – high quality, compassionate care for the huge number of us who find ourselves needing it.
With regards to the Sky News article, I question the tact of a comment like, ‘Mental health illness is believed to cost the economy, the NHS and society £105bn a year’ without saying how much mental illness ‘costs’ the person experiencing it. I would have also liked to have read some service user testimonials in this article to see how this news sits with people who will be directly affected. Not enough space is given to the voices of real people who experience mental health issues, that’s where the value lies.
It’s promising to see this kind of story on a national news platform, but it’s up to us to make sure that’s not where the conversation ends. Let’s keep the discussion going and champion the best care for those with mental health issues!
‘How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.’ – David Foster Wallace
This is one of my favourite quotes. I wrote about a similar idea in one of my earlier blog posts, ‘House’, in the context of other people not being able to feel exactly how you do, or appreciate fully what your world is like.
I try to remind myself of this quote as often as I can. I can only understand other people through my own experiences, and that can only get me so far. This teaches me to be less cynical, less judgemental and more able to accept people for who they are. It makes it easier to forgive people, because they usually have a justification beyond our knowledge. It makes it easier to forgive myself, because communicating how I feel isn’t always straightfoward.
Our worlds are deeply personal to us and wholly individual, but what’s really amazing is how we share them with each other. Time is wasted being spent not appreciating the amazing diversity that constantly surrounds us. Nothing is ‘normal’, nor is anything ‘not normal’. We have certain things we are used to and that’s where our comfort lies. I find it such a shame when people forget this and let their own fears take over. We see this everyday in the way people talk about and act towards those who are different to them. Just remember, every person out there has ‘all this inside them’ just the same as you do.
See beyond the words, they’re only ever the beginning.
‘No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world’ – Robin Williams
Like this if you agree!