At the start of the new year, just a couple of months ago, most were looking forward with hope. Hope for better diets, new hobbies, new jobs, new goals and a general desire to start afresh in every aspect of their lives.
Sadly not everyone is able to do that because they suffer from either persistent down mood, depression or some other mental health issue that prevents them from seeing the joy or hope. Or something terrible happens that rocks everyone's world, because it highlights how much in the margins we are, or how lucky we are, or indeed, just how wrong we are.
Often those that do not suffer, believe that signs of trouble include and are clear signs: not being able to get out of bed, lack of personal grooming, self or social isolation, self-medicating with alcohol or illegal substances, and irritability. Less obvious signs may be read as indicators include: indecision, increased frustration, taking the blame for things that aren’t their fault, general unhappiness, and a lack of confidence when previously they may have had plenty.
Of course there are those that live with difficulties every day because of mental health issues, prejudices, or beliefs and somehow manage to get up, go to work, put on a public face and then go home to recover from the fakery and pressure of their day.
It’s tough living like this. Everyone thinks you’re fine but silently you’re screaming for someone, everyone, anyone, to see your truth.
You get up and shower, you clip or paint your nails and get haircuts, polish your shoes, and all the other niceties because those things disguise what’s really going on. They hide the pain from outside eyes. You go to work, you get very good at smiling in all the right places, and you bury your feelings in the work that you do. You go home and collapse, or you take it out on your partner. You sleep when you can, you stay at home when you have invitations to go out.
You can help, even when someone is going about their day with seemingly nothing wrong, take the time to stop and listen. In a world where we’re taught to listen to answer, listening with your eyes as well as your ears is the only way you’ll see what’s really going on with someone. Whether a family member, friend or colleague.
Are they being shorter than usual in their answers?
Are they having trouble completing tasks or concentrating?
Are they more jumpy than usual?
Are they having doubts in their abilities?
Are they withdrawing from activities?
Are they verbalising negative thoughts?
Do they seem to be having difficulty enjoying simple pleasures?
Are some of their usual standards slipping?
Listen to their words as well as their silences. It may just save their life.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing mental health issues, you can contact one of the following helplines.
www.lifeline.org.au 13 11 14
www.qlife.org.au 1800 184 527