A personal note

I write this as I fly to Brisbane to attend a memorial service for an old work colleague and a friend. He was a gun salesman, always top of the table at the end of each month, often achieved too easily through the huge network he had of clients and contemporaries who respected him. He was a drum and bass lover, whether it was in the clubs or at a summer festival. He was a father to a young girl who he adored and I hope she never doubts it for a second. He loved the beach, his mates, a good yarn on the phone and would flirt up a storm whenever the opportunity allowed it – which seemed to be always. Unfortunately last week he made a decision that has left his family and friends shocked and devastated.

So many thoughts have crossed my mind in the last few days. I’ve tried a few different things to help cope with the news including donating to Beyond Blue and a local Headspace; bad jokes; eating an entire pizza; crying; vodka; talking to friends; not talking to anyone and now writing this. I’m still not sure I’ll actually post it except for the fact that the point I want to make will be missed if I don’t.

There are two things I’ve heard many times in the past few days. Firstly, “I had no idea/he seemed like the least likely person to suffer from depression”. His mother is struggling for answers and we’re all carrying the guilt that we didn’t see a change in his mood or behaviour. Secondly, my wonderful friends have been comforting me by saying there was nothing we could have done. While I understand and (so very much) appreciate the sentiment (and context), I can’t believe it’s true.

There’s something we can do but we all need to do it. We need to be able to speak about depression and mental health without stigma, judgement or hesitation. We need to check in with those we know are struggling, even when we think they are coping.

When John Brogden was on the 7PM Project recently I think I heard them say that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst young people. If it were a form of cancer we’d be wearing ribbons and eating coloured Tim Tams. If it were a blackspot on a road we’d go to the government in outrage. We need to create a culture where it’s ok to talk about how we’re doing and we need to do that every day. If we don’t know then there is nothing we can do. So let’s stop that.

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~ by mandi bateson on March 29, 2010.

15 Responses to “A personal note”

  1. very moving mandi. sadly depressed people become master at hiding their sadness. And yes it is the leading cause of male youth deaths.

  2. Thanks so much for this post Mandi.

    It’s often the most outwardly together people who are inwardly unravelling.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I echo your sentiment about checking in with people. It’s weird how we often feel we shouldn’t or can’t talk about our mental health when our physical well-being is such an oversaturated topic of chat.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I’m sorry for your loss.
    You’re absolutely right. While I believe suicide is a choice we all have the right to make, I also believe it’s not the option as many people would take if we, as a society, were better at being honest, reaching out, sharing the fact we are all struggling at times.
    Having lost several people I love, and having several other friends who’ve teetered on the brink, I am certain that it wasn’t for a moment that they felt their friends or family were not able to be accepting or weren’t endlessly supportive, but (in part) a sense they couldn’t handle being the problem – that amidst the care and compassion, they were still alone in the way they felt.
    The more we talk about this, and admit that things can get desperate for even the most together-seeming of us, the more – I hope – we can de-stigmatise mental illness and shine some light into the darkness.

  4. Mandi,

    You, my dear, are so terribly right in everything that you have said here so eloquently. From someone who has had personal experience in this issue as well as struggling for 3 years trying to raise awareness about this issue in my day job, it is so bloody important we change. Right here, right now.

    It takes people like you to evoke this change. There are things we can do. We can talk about it. We can write about it. We can share our stories. And we can make people listen. And act.

    My heart is with you, Mandi.

    Thank you for being so brave.

    Karalee x

  5. I’m so sorry to hear about that, love.
    It sucks.
    And you can play endless 3d Tetris with the past.
    Trying to make all your rows neat- and make them disappear.
    But you can’t.
    We can’t make this problem disappear.
    We need to make it visible.
    Bless you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for writing this, and sharing it although I know it would have been hard to post, not knowing if it was ever going to convey fully what you wanted to express.

    I have been depressed, and am coming out of it now; and am also not taking anti-depressants any more, despite my moniker of ‘missgiggly’ – my expressiveness was taken to be something over the top, or crying for attention, or something to be ignored, unfollowed, made fun of. I can only be thankful for those that do take the time to get to know me, and are there for me when they know I’m not just whinging, or expressing something just for the sake of ‘attention’ alone.

  7. Well done Mandi.
    I think that tweeting your story is more powerful than anything else you could have done.
    “We need to be able to speak about depression and mental health without stigma, judgement or hesitation.”
    Depression is the most common consequence of emotional trauma.
    Frances

  8. Thank you all for taking the time to comment.

    @Mal and @Scott – it makes me so grateful for the people who do reach out, I want to be proud of our reactions in the hope that it will encourage others to do the same

    @Cathie I agree, I don’t know why we think we need super human coping skills. Why would we have all these wonderful people in our lives if they weren’t here to share everything with us – the good and the bad.

    @Karalee i am absolutely in awe of everything you do for Headspace and your family – you’re an everyday hero (wow that’s corny. but i don’t want to dilute it)

    @Katie you’re right and i think despite his pain Gilbo has kicked one last goal in inspiring his many, many friends and family into getting vocal about this.

    @Kimberley i hope if you ever find yourself struggling with depression again you remember that it is possible to come out the other side. and to all the people who gave you grief you can remind them that if the rest of us were as open and expressive as you, maybe this wouldn’t be such a dire issue!

  9. @Frances thank you, it’s not easy for anyone but that’s pretty much the point isn’t it?

  10. Mandi, I’m really sorry for your loss.
    It’s so moving to hear about the personal stories – the people who are left behind, who had no idea, yet have to deal with the death of the loved one for the rest of their lives.
    Men, young and old, are struggling to show their vulnerability, being the strong, silent type, or the chatty friendly chap.
    Men of all walks of life, can be hit with depression, and would resist asking for help, as a sign of weakness.
    We must have a closer look at the men around us, and let them know it is ok to talk about their challenges, their struggles, and even fears.
    We may event save their life.
    I’m involved in a project to raise awareness about male depression, to try and prevent men from taking their own lives.
    Click on my name for more information.

  11. Oh Mandi – I’m so sorry to hear this news. Your post is shocking, true & sad. Thanks for being public about your grief and for being vocal about what most of us ignore, deny and push aside in the quest to be perfect, secret, ambitious and strong.

    Cheers, darling – you continue to reveal yourself as a beautiful soul, an ultra-talented writer and a smart brave woman with a big heart.

    xoxo,
    k

  12. Mandi – Your post is very sad and so true, its nice to know your doing your bit to help awareness – I’m sorry to hear about your news about your friend.

    Its hard to say but I too am on the road out of the black hole.

    Awareness, Acceptance, Compassion is the key – It makes me so annoyed that depression and mental health are overlooked, ignored, judged or treated wrongly by so many in this society. The things I have been called would shock you. So that is just one reason why a depressed person would hide… They also don’t want to bother people, like Cathie said “a sense they couldn’t handle being the problem – they were still alone in the way they felt.”

    I say “Share a smile with someone, or pick up the phone, call just to say hello. You never know it may just make all the difference to someone’s day”.

    So good work on the awareness! Love it!

    You seem to be a truly wonderful friend!

  13. […] please, read the stories people like Cathie and Mandi and others are sharing and take the time to ask someone today ‘Are you OK?’. VN:F […]

  14. I had a friend and work colleague who took his life on his 40th birthday leaving his wife and 5 children to wonder why this kind and inspirational man took this action. It only made sense to me when the Priest offered that, in my friend’s mind, he was once again doing the best thing for his family.

  15. […] A personal note – something that makes my heart jump in my throat every time I see it clicked, shared or mentioned […]

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