Please Ask Twice: Mental Heatlh Kills Even When It Doesn’t

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I heard it said the other day some statistic whereby if someone asks you how you are, the default response is “I’m okay”. You say this almost on autopilot, without even thinking. So are we all ‘okay’ or is there a deeper issue?

As someone who is very much in the category of not being ‘okay’ I can indeed confirm that i too say that i’m okay more often than not. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, it’s a far quicker reply when you can’t be bothered getting into a big deep conversation about how your life is falling apart, you live every day on the edge and you generally wish you weren’t alive. Secondly, you don’t want to lay the above information on the person who’s had the misfortune to ask how you are. That’s quite the burden to put on them, even if they are your best friend in the entire world. Nobody wants to hear all that. Even if they say they do.

I have also heard the saying ‘you need to ask twice’. I think that was on one of the mental health awareness websites. They say if your friend says they’re ‘fine’ or ‘okay’, ask them again. You may just get a different answer.

How many people are plagued by this terrible invisible illness? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)  around one in four people worldwide will suffer some form of mental or neurological condition at some time in their lives.  The WHO also estimate that 5% of adults globally suffer from depression,  with suicide being the fourth largest killer among 15-29 year olds, whilst men account for around three times more suicides than women, according to the Office For National Statistics.

That brings me to me.  Two years ago, before Covid broke wind on the world, I said to myself that ‘this year will be my last’.  I really had had enough and thought that somehow or another, i won’t last another New Year.  However, two Chrismasses later and I’m still here.  So when people ask how i’m doing, my response should be changed from “I’m okay” to “i’m alive”.  That’s literally the most positive I can be, the fact that i’m still here!

Speaking of Covid though, it really has made a dificult situation for us manic depressives even harder.  With the entire world struggling and so many people and loved ones dying, just imagine how much more difficult it is to say to that one person who’s lost a family member that you don’t want to live?  So that “okay” becomes even firmer.

I guess there’s always professionals to speak to.  I one time emailed the Samaritans.  I don’t like to bother them because I don’t consider myself ‘bad enough’ to waste their time with when there’s so many other people who need help.  Besides, what were they actually going to do to help?  Tell me everything will be okay?  Talk me down off that metaphorical ledge?  I’m really not sure what they could do to help.  That said, I finally bit the bullet and emailed them, explaining what was wrong at that particular time.  They replied with a very lovely email, with a very many canned responses, most of which were sympathising and empthasising with my situation and saying how I was feeling was normal.  Every word straight out of a text book.  Now, i’m not downplaying the work they do and if it was someone else i would always recommend they talk to someone.  Me though? I’m stubborn and it went exactly as I had envisaged it!

Needless to say, i never replied back.  I just went on my ‘merry’ way in my own little world.  Part of my problem is that I wish so much that people – friends, family, strangers, anyone – would genuinely ask how I am and mean it when they say they’re there for me.  However, I know that’s not true.  Literally nobody wants to hear how bad you are.  Nobody.  Except me.  If you come to me with any problem, I will always listen and do my best.  So, is it just other mental health sufferers who understand each other?

Or maybe it’s just me.

Last year, i think it was October or November, I finally submitted defeat and requested help from the GP surgery.  I had a conversation with a ‘Mental Health Expert’.  He offered to refer me to one of three departments for treatment.  I chose the quickest one.  There was just a four week turnaround.  Needless to say that nearly six months on and I haven’t heard a word.  That’s just fine.  I didn’t want to live anyway.

Just remember, if you have a friend, family member or even just an acquaintance, ask them once, ask them twice… you may just get a different answer.

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