As Mental Health Champion at work I regularly get calls from my colleagues asking for information, support and guidance about depression either for themselves or for others they know who are suffering. I am often talking to people in confidence about their life, friends and family and privy to sensitive and personal information revealed as a result of their low mood and obvious symptoms that something is very wrong. All this in the hope that I will be able to help in some small way.
Thankfully I am pleased to say that I can usually help if only by giving them information about where to get the help and support offered by our employer, friends, family and mental health organisations together with the clinical support critical to early diagnosis and improved chances of complete recovery. I pride myself on my ability to listen without judgement and to offer practical solutions to immediate concerns. By being open and honest about my experience with depression I am helping others fight and come to terms with their own battles against mental illness and importantly fighting the stigma still attached to mental illness.
Not a lot shocks me any more. As Indiana Jones quotes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” and I have covered a good few many miles over my half a century so all in all I tend to take things that people tell me in my stride. Since being back at work after the Christmas and New Year holidays however I have been truly shocked. Shocked not with what people have confided in me, but bowled over by the sheer number of calls, texts, emails and meetings I have had with colleagues asking for help. This is so sad. January is always a difficult time for many with long, dark days. Too much month left until PayDay and an overall deflated feeling after the over-hyped celebrations of Christmas and New Year but somehow this year feels worse than usual.
For me personally I have already seen a good friend signed off work for a month with suspected BPD; A team trying to deal with open and misguided prejudice against a colleague off sick with depression; someone else re-admitted to The Priory Clinic just 5 months after a failed suicide attempt. If I know this number of people and a lot more besides who are suffering with depression, anxiety or other mental illness how many more are out there? You may know a few; a lot; no-one if you are lucky but please spare a thought for those in despair and try to help where you can.
We all know that the economic situation ain’t great. People generally have less money than before and reading the newspaper headlines can be depressing in itself. But remember. You don’t need money to show compassion and help others who are struggling to cope. Depression is non-discriminatory and is no respecter of riches or achievements. Depression can strike anyone at anytime and I for one would like to know that in times of trouble I can rely on my friends, family and colleagues to be patient, kind and understanding so I can get back on my own two feet as soon as I possibly can.
Bear this in mind, not just this month, but all year. It’s not too late to add another resolution to your tally.