Mental Health: the importance of talking and having someone to talk to

It will surprise few that I have had a difficult week mentally. I have written in the past of my frustration at times when I have been unable to tell when a dark period of mental health was coming. Frankly though, one didn’t need to be Nostradamus to see my difficulties this week coming. A combination of a hectic work week, some physical frailty and some important and poignant personal milestones approach left me deep in a dark place.

I am feeling much better about things though as I write this today for a number of reasons. A principal reason among that number is the fact that I was able to speak freely about what has been troubling me. I spoke to my psychologist. I spoke to my best friend. I spoke to my father. I spoke to my sister.

Each of these amazing people in my life have accepted my mental illness for what it is and allow me to talk when I need to and. In fact, they probably do not realise just how much they help me when they listen to me variously rant, plot, procrastinate and self deprecate.

Talking through an issue is a major part of my therapy: I do not know where I would be without it. I have been left to reflect today though on the importance having someone at the other end of the phone / message service / side of the coffee table who is prepared to listen and do so with empathy. I have such people but there are many out there who do not.

I am a lucky one and I realise now more than ever that we as a society must to more to help those who aren’t as lucky as me. I know there are telephone services out there and in patient facilities that can assist but at a base level we all as humans have or should have an obligation to listen to and support our fellow humans when they need it.

I have made this call to arms before and I will make it again: if you have a friend, colleague or acquaintance you believe to be struggling then do something about it. Even if it just offering an ear to listen too taking that step could be the most important thing you ever do.

I will be forever thankful to those I have in my life who are prepared to listen to me. They have made a massive difference to the way I live and the way I deal with my mental impediments daily. I will never be able to thank them enough.

PostScript 1: If you are an advocate of the “tough love” approach and are tempted to tell your friend, colleague or acquaintance to just “toughen up” then I urge you against that approach. It just doesn’t work and will likely make the person you are talking to just feel weaker and more fragile then already do.

PostScript 2: Ian Thorpe admitting himself to a facility for treatment yesterday was big news. I salute him for having the courage to seek help. It is often, I know from bitter experience, the hardest step to take. I wish him well and hope the press will now leave alone to heal.

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