Nobody's perfect. We are all flawed, compounded when we are floored by depression. But there is a silver lining to this cloud that reveals itself as you find your feet again.
In a world which can be self-indulgent, self-orientated and selfish a sufferer can go through this humbling experience and become a more frank, honest and compassionate person. From suffering in silence and alone, from the doom and gloom of a darkened room, when the cloud lifts, as well as trying to go about your normal lifestyle, you might feel naturally drawn to help others. Sympathy and empathy go hand-in-hand. The upside of depression is it can give you an opportunity to have a heightened awareness of another' s suffering, whether it is feeling alone, uncared for, unloved or unsafe. You can now fully appreciate the importance of providing understanding and support. Sharing your time and your compassion can make a difference.
I am soon to publish an illustrated poem "The Black Dawg" which attempts to depict the experience of being depressed as well as offering a lantern of hope to help sufferers and their loved ones negotiate their way through the darkest days. In the process of research and promotion I have contacted worldwide charities, self-help groups and writers, artists and photographers who are using their talents, or medium to express their personal battles. This poem attempts to fill the void of misconception surrounding the subject by using vibrant illustrations from collaborator Kath Hockey http://kathrynhockey.com/. I have been surprised at the willingness of others to respond immediately and show their interest and support. With my findings to date I have concluded there is a zeitgeist, a coming together of like-minded souls worldwide who realise that this subject can no longer be ignored. There is a common quest to dispel stigma and replace it with comprehension, advice and strategies to cope. NOW seems to be the time when the powers-that-be, instead of just cocking an ear, so-to-speak, are being forced to sit up and listen and more importantly.... ACT. Just recently an initiative has started gathering pace and attention due to the weight of support from personalities behind it, so it can't be ignored. This pro-active group "Equality 4 Mental Health" http://www.equality4mentalhealth.uk/ has the backing of MPs who have suffered poor mental health, (some of whom have even experienced full breakdowns at some point in their careers) along with former health ministers and a whole raft of celebrity endorsements. The aim is to create adequate funding, care and research for mental health. This will be a powerful lobby to break through the taboo that somehow mental health is less important or vital than other health issues. After all, without a brain working we might as well be a straw scarecrow. And we can't all trot off to see the wizard... imagine the waiting room!
"Equality 4 Mental Health" is a cross-party, cross-society, cross-denominational organisation which exemplifies the growing urge to raise your head over the parapet, and not whisper, but honestly state: "This is me, this is part of who I am, we are many. Support Us."
There has never been a better time for the general public and governments to try to understand mental health issues, acknowledge them, research them and respond. The problems are not going to go away. It's a fact that 23% of the populace suffer from poor mental health, in its many guises.Taking into account the involvement of nearest and dearest, it means that we ALL know at least someone whose life is being challenged and compromised in this way. Many suffer in silence and are not heard. Check suicide rates. Situation critical.
Many individuals I contacted seem compelled to depict their depressive episodes through their own artistic medium, be it through blogging, novels, poetry, painting and photography. Despite working in splendid isolation, seemingly unconnected, their motivation is the same, the urge to express their experience as honestly as possible, and thereby engage with those less capable of explaining the inexplicable. Great therapy!
The indie charities I spoke to worldwide had evolved due to a lack of provision from government health and welfare schemes. Even though their contribution is indispensable, they are currently underfunded and overwhelmed. I hope these separate organisations will someday operate under one umbrella -sharing ideas, success stories, treatments and methods. All for one and one for all. This won't happen any time soon, however mental health programmes will continue to spring up in response to a prolific cry for help he world over. Some worthy of mention are from our friends Down Under, Heads Up http://headsupguys.ca/and The Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/then closer to home Off The Record in Bristol http://www.otrbristol.org.uk/ and Depression Alliance http://www.depressionalliance.org/get-involved/. Online, one of many support groups is Lilac https://www.facebook.com/Lilacisreal/?fref=ts who encourage their "brave warriors" to post their their thoughts and fears. Sharing is caring and proves therapeutic to many.
So, we can all make a subtle difference by just being intuitively aware of those around us, look beyond the brave face, the public face, the fake smile. When you ask "How are you?", say it with meaning, not just as a pleasantry and listen to the answer carefully. Remember for many it's hard to convey the inner turmoil adequately. In the case of depression, it is something which can befall any of us indiscriminately at any stage of our lives, none of us is immune. If you are suffering, support is all around, just look, listen and trust. Opening up about your mental health struggle is half the battle and along the way you find out who really cares and how much. We can all do our little bit to help. My circumstances led to me writing a therapeutic poem which I hope will resonate with people who live with depression and help promote a better understanding of it for those who don't. I want to assure people they are not alone. There is a massive network out there, sharing, supporting and shouting out "This is me, please help me deal with It".
You are in very good company.
So. Let's Stick Together. Come on.