Last year, I lost a friend. A friend who when I first met, I admired so much that she terrified me. I think of her at least once a day; she’s one of those people who has had such a profound impact on my life, that somehow everything seems a little more grey without her.
She didn’t die – she simply stopped talking to me, and all those who had been her friends a few years ago. To be honest, I hadn’t been brilliant in keeping in touch with her after I moved away from Australia – but whenever I did see her, it all felt like we’d barely been apart. She’s the kind of person who can dissect anyone’s personality just by meeting them once. Everything was a mind game, and more than anything, it was fun. She’s amazing. But it wasn’t suicide that got her. It was that Black Dog. We’d failed her because we couldn’t help her get away from it, and she couldn’t bare us any more.
The NHS doesn’t take anyone who is not suicidal seriously, when it comes to mental health. Unless you actually are close to killing yourself, you are simply not worth putting any money into. You may feel like you the whole world has sucked you up and turned you into mush, or that the negative horrific voices in your head won’t shut up, or that every fibre in your body aches with the exhaustion of anxiety – but that doesn’t matter if topping yourself isn’t what you’re going to do about it. In physical health terms, it’s like having a unbearable chronic pain that isn’t going to be fatal (yet) and a doctor ignoring it.
The fact is, mental health illness is far more complex than suicidal thoughts. The stems of its problems delve deep into the core of humanity and our relationship with society. Currently, that system is broken – the links between people have been severed to create an individualist society, and one in which the “I” comes before all else. Spaces to care and love one another have been replaced by strict behavioural conduct. Like the idea where even friends count how much they owe each other in dinners and pints rather than in love and affection.
We worry incessantly about giving up our hopes and dreams – our independence – for the sake of others, as if that should be a priority. The “I” becomes the only thing to pursue, pushing the “us” onto the side. Our social roots are shallow and brittle – is it no wonder that it is so easy to fell us? But the pain of depression is not only about when we fall, but when we are barely standing. When our shallow roots feel so fragile and sensitive that it can all be cut to pieces. That is when we need help – everyday.
Suicide is not the only symptom of depression, it’s the last.