Social media has been awash with sympathetic posts about the suicide and the importance of being there for your loved ones. While this may seem like a wonderful sentiment and an indication of the destigmatisation of mental health issues, assessing some of my network’s posts its really an opportunity for many people to appear supportive. The reality is celebrity deaths seem to bring out the compassion in people who couldn’t care less about their friends who are struggling to resist the urge to take their lives.
We all know that social media platforms provide opportunities for many to grandstand. Rather than taking the time to read literature about mental health disorders and issues, the simple posting of a “Your life is precious”, “Ask for help”, “I’m here for you”. Speaking from personal experience, these posts are meaningless. And having suffered from depression, anxiety and a number of other mental health issues along with attempted suicides and suicide ideation, I can count on my left hand the number of people who I feel are genuinely concerned about my well being. Maybe one of those people posted about suicide prevention and that one person has gone through her fair share of challenges along the road to achieving optimal mental health.
Instead of posting these temporarily popular posts aka trendy pics and statements, why don’t you reach out to a friend you haven’t heard from in a long time? Or peruse sites that describe symptoms of various mental health and personality disorders. Often times depression has no standard look or feel. It’s not like a movie where the sad teenager wears all black to school and has hair that hasn’t been washed in weeks. Do you think close friends and family of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade knew they were going to kill themselves hours after speaking to them? I attempted to commit suicide on my lunch break and didn’t return to work for weeks pretending like nothing had happened. Do you think my colleagues knew that my sudden “blood clot” and recovery was actually one of the lowest points in my life, health wise? Not when I was smiling and joking all the time before and after a stint in hospital.
Everyone thinks they know what depression and poor mental health looks like. Even I, who battles everyday and I mean every fucking day, doesn’t know what bad looks like in others. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t look and try to understand. Don’t get me wrong, I was very sad that two people were compelled to take their lives. I even cried. But, the faux concern of others quickly grounded me in reality that my pain may never be understood. The reality that if people can’t see your illness, they don’t have the patience for your days off from work, your shying away from social events, your inability to articulate what is wrong, your social media posts discussing something they would all rather forget, your anger & agitation that is really anxiety. People understand cancer that is coupled with hair loss, wheelchairs, speech impediments and crutches.
Unfortunately, people will only mourn you after you have been successful in your suicide or after they have seen you attempting suicide. Even in death, your actions and disease may never be understood.
Here are some sites that can shed some light on the struggles of others (and for flaming Christmas sakes don’t ever say “Cheer up”!):
Helping Someone with Depression
How can friends and family help?
5 Things to Do (And Not To Do) to Support Someone with Depression
The Do’s and Don’ts of Anxiety
Helping Someone with Bipolar Disorder
Helping Someone with borderline personality disorder
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