We all need to understand our brains


heads“He had everything y’know.

A good job…


A nice house!

And THAT’S what he did.”

*Points to an information booklet on suicide*

“But, it doesn’t make sense.”

My colleague and I hosted a mental health information stand at an event recently.

It was aimed at the 60+ age group who wanted a health MOT and to find out their biological age. We were there to promote our charity’s 1:1 behaviour change intervention. Using low-level Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, we help people who want to become more active, but lack the confidence, motivation and self-belief to take the first step, or even stay on the step for that matter. A mild mental health difficulty alone can massively impact on someone’s ability to just leave the house on a given day. However, for some people, understanding how to break their mind’s vicious cycle may just lessen their chances of being bed-bound for a day or two, on some occasions.

To say our stand was swerved by one or two uneasy-looking attendees is a ruddy big fat lie.

Roughly 85% of attendees maintained a gap — between themselves and our table — SO BIG, I could have comfortably swung a cat in it. Actually, one in each hand, whilst spinning at high speed.

More of my sweets than books and free stress balls were taken. And only 4 relevent conversations were had, one being the above.

The lady above approached our stand…scanned the titles…and began to speak about losing a family member to suicide only a few months earlier. She struggled to use the word suicide.

Pointing at it was more than enough.

“THAT’S what he did.”

It was tragedy in three parts: the heartbreaking loss of her family member, the confusion she felt surrounding his reasons for taking his life, and the apparent stigma. To her, his death made no sense. The real reason (or reasons) would never be revealed, and she was going to have to live with this huge ‘unknown’ for the rest of her life. It was heartbreaking.

2018 is the Year of Young People meaning, the spotlight is on celebrating the personalities, talents and achievements of Scotland’s 8–26 year-olds. For charities like the Scottish Association for Mental Health, it’s an opportunity to address the barriers young people face in accessing the support they need, when they need it. However, the conversation from the event that day reminded me of the need to remember the mental health needs of our ageing population too, and the stigma this particular generation have to navigate.

We should all try to understand our brains.

Explaining that everyone has mental health is really hard. And I imagine I’ll hear conversations like the above many more times. However, whether we like it or not, we do all have mental health and, if you bother to look after your physical health by dragging your derrière to the gym every so often, you should spend a bit of time knowing what rebalances your mental barometer too.

It’s also really important to remember that a mental illness can affect anyone.

Confidence doesn’t bring immunity. A six-figure salary and a happy marriage doesn’t bring immunity. Nor that awesome job, or that house filled with loving pets, and three well-behaved kids. Anyone can be at risk of suicide.

People who experience a mental illness — for any length of time — aren’t lacking anything like ‘grit’ or a, ‘strong backbone’. It’s not something they’ve asked for, or developed out of choice, or neglect. However, there are small things you can do every day to help you take care of ‘you’.

Fluctuations in mental wellbeing are totally normal — it’s learning healthy ways to handle the difficult emotions, and knowing when you need to raise your hand and ask for a bit of support that’s important.

I’m 100% guilty of overthinking anything, and everything, especially if i’m feeling anxious.

A trigger for me can be, feeling like I’m failing at the old game called ‘life’, allowing that feeling to overstay its welcome, and then being hit by an inevitable crisis in confidence. I can dwell over mistakes and criticism, downloading comments as hard facts that I can use to reinforce a similar negative self-belief I have in future.

For me, it’s reminding myself that nobody lives a straightforward, flawless, life. Sometimes you jut need to say, “Yeah, whatever. I fucked up there. Will replaying it over and over in my head help? NOPE. Right, let’s move on.”

It’s important we take the time to look after our mental health. For more info on what you could do every day, take a look at The New Economic Foundation’s five ways to better wellbeing.

  • Be Active
  • Connect
  • Learn
  • Give
  • Take Notice

And also, if you like a decent podcast and are interested in hearing about lived experience of mental health issues, give Mad World by Bryony Gordon a whirl.

“Self care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation.”
Audrey Lorde

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