With the recent news of the sad passings of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, our social media timelines are awash with well-meaning threads on why it's so important to reach out when you're struggling.
But in my experience, it's not always that easy and for some - it's almost impossible.
Here I'll share my experiences of 'reaching out' as well as some ideas for things you could do if you're struggling or if you think a friend is suffering.
POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING CONTENT
When 'Reaching Out' Doesn't Work
You may have read my previous post on my experience of beginning my journey on anti-depressants. If not, you can read it here.
I mentioned that I was facing a 6 weeks holiday off of work as being a teacher and wanted to proactively watch out for my mental health as I knew that my previous holidays had been hard.
Luckily, I was in the headspace at that time to take the plunge and make a GP appointment.
The appointment led to a meeting with a psychologist who confirmed a diagnosis of depression, anxiety and elements of borderline personality disorder.
He agreed with my GP that a course of anti-depressants could be a good start and told me he would write to my GP to refer me to a special type of counselling. I'd had CBT before and couldn't get along with it.
Two weeks passed and I had heard nothing. Then came the time to get a new prescription of anti-depressants to see me through another month. I called the GP (which is the process at my surgery) and was told they'd be ready to collect immediately. I headed off to my pharmacist an hour later.
Upon arrival the pharmacist told me they hadn't received my prescription. I called my GP there and was then told that no prescription had been made and that I needed a follow up appointment - I was annoyed for my waste of time and worried about a period without tablets.
I organised an afternoon off of work to go the appointment that I'd organised to turn up to my surgery to find out that the GP hadn't booked it in and was now full.
So there I was, frustrated and sad at time-wasted and anxious about being off of my tablets for too long.
I was told my GP would call me for a telephone appointment. I was told this a further 5 times without ever hearing anything.
I decided to visit my surgery and ask to speak to a doctor face to face as I couldn't understand why I kept being forgotten and ignored - by this time, I'd been without tablets for 10 days.
No doctor would come and speak to me in the reception. I had a full on break-down there and then as I was desperate to be heard and to be seen.
I was shown the computer system where they proved they had booked me in for a telephone appointment the next day - they couldn't give me a prescription until this appointment.
And guess what? No one called.
It was at this point that I decided not to go back to the GP and not to fight for the medication - because ironically trying to get help ended up making me worse.
I also called the psychologist back to find out why I hadn't heard anything about therapy and he told me he had a letter from my GP stating that I would be self-referring. Something I was never made aware of.
So there I was. No medical help. No medication. And the advice that was always given to me? To reach out? To get help? To take the correct steps? Well where was that?
Why Some People Just Can't 'Reach Out'
Of course tweeting about 'reaching out' and posting Facebook photos with numbers for the Samaritans is a way to show that you're doing *something* if you don't really know what else to do.
But some thought needs to be paid to those people who just can't reach out.
Making a doctor's appointment or telling a loved one that you're struggling is a basic act of self-care but when you suffer with mental health problems where taking care of yourself is just not possible then this isn't that easy.
Why YOU Should Reach Out
No, not you, not the one with the problems. But the people around you.
Whilst you may think you're helping by posting that you're there for people, or you're sharing crisis numbers or retweeting posts about how it's so sad when celebrities end their lives and you want the people in your life to know you're there - try actually doing something.
It's GREAT that you're doing all of the above. And who knows - you might help someone somewhere, but it's not enough.
If you have a friend or a loved one that you know struggles or you may worry is struggling - here are a few things you could do:
- Text them and ask what they're up to - sometimes a distraction is enough.
- Arrange to see them - but don't make it too onerous. A cup of coffee or to pop round theirs to watch an episode of Love Island could be all it takes.
- Ask if they're Ok and that you're thinking about them.
- Ask if they're coping and offer hugs, tea, supplies or to be someone to phone to doctor for them if they're not coping.
- Send them pictures of things they love or holiday ideas of where they can go in the future - remind them that there's more out there than what their head is telling them.
- Be consistent with your contact. One text a day just to ask how work was or what their plans are takes you less than a minute but shows them that there's someone who cares.
- Don't get annoyed or fed up with them. People who are really struggling would love to go out with you, see you or reciprocate your contact but just can't - be patient.
- Work out what your friend or loved one needs and do that. In my moments of strength I told my friends, sister and boyfriend that if I get to the point when things are REALLY hard, I'll say the words, 'I'm not Ok' and that's their cue to load up ASOS, cook me dinner, come round and see me or to arrange a coffee.
This list isn't exhaustive and some things won't work for everyone.
How To Reach Out If You Can
If you are in the position to reach out and feel like it's time, here's what you can do.
Make An Appointment
The likelihood is that your experience will NOT be as shite as mine. And had everything gone the way it should've gone - I like to think I'd be on consistent medication or undergoing therapy by now.
In fact - I've made the steps to self-refer and I'm going to attempt to get an appointment with a different GP.
Tell Your Friends And Loved Ones Your Signal
Like my, 'I'm not Ok', you should tell the people closest to you that when you reach your limit and need their help that you will let them know in a certain way - whatever works for you!
Call The Hotlines
Read Mental Health Blogs
And connect with the bloggers behind them! Sometimes feeling less alone is all you need.
Whilst I appreciate the sentiments behind people's public postings around the times of high-profile suicides and I can acknowledge that sometimes people who have no experience of mental health just want to do what they can, perhaps it's time to leave the, 'just reach out' trope behind and offer help in more ways.
Do you struggle with 'reaching out'? Or have a loved one you want to help but don't know how? I'd love to hear about your experiences of reaching out!