Advocacy for Mental Health even if you are OK.
By Anna Robb
I do not suffer from depression. I’m wired as an optimist but that also doesn’t mean that my life has been all red wine and roses. I have had my share of picking myself up off the floor of helplessness. I’ve also been in the presence of and surrounded by many people suffering depression. I have watched them drowning in it, trying to keep their head above water, their pain laid out in front of me. The second most painful thing from actually being in depression is watching someone you love go through it.
We don’t talk about it enough. Mental Health.
Last year, an ex-boyfriend/ex-fiancé of mine committed suicide. In 2016 an employee of mine had to take months off work, totally incapacitated by depression. My mother had a breakdown when I was a teenager. I dragged one of my best friends to a doctor one day many years ago and put her in the room and said “help her”. I worked on a show where within a 3 month period, two employees threw themselves off high rise buildings. Once I lived with an alcoholic who would drink a bottle of vodka in the evening and then make a ginger and beetroot juice in the morning thinking she was healthy. Another house mate who would get drunk nightly then push furniture around the house crying and calling for his mother.
Maybe because of these experiences, maybe because I’ve lived amongst many cultures, maybe because I work in entertainment, most people that know me well, know that I am not fond of small talk. You tell me who you are raw and real or we aren’t having a conversation. So, if you are struggling, it’s OK, you can tell me. I’d rather know this than you paint a pretty picture of your life for me. Protecting the people around you from how you are feeling is not helping you or them so blurt it out, tell someone, speak up. Please.
At TheatreArtLife we have been publishing a series of articles on mental health on tour from the Arts Wellbeing Collective, based in Australia. I love these articles. These tips and tools are great to stay on top of your emotional and mental health. I am constantly editing these articles and muttering to myself, “Yes. I should do this” or “Yes. That is exactly how I feel after coming home from a long gig”. I have started following the Arts Wellbeing Collective’s post tour tips for when I return to my family in Hong Kong from a long gig away. My point being is, that even if you aren’t suffering from depression, everyone should be doing due diligence on their own mental health.
And if you are suffering from depression. Hear this. There are many people around you that will help you if you let them know. You are not alone. And if those around you aren’t listening, there are people out there that give a fuck. Find them. There are also a multitude of reasons you may be in a depressed state and none of them are your fault. None of them are your fault. Should I say it again? None of them are your fault. We may not understand what you are going through but that doesn’t mean we won’t help. Lean on us.
For those who don’t suffer from depression. Hear this. You’ve got to get a lot better at spotting the signs.
If someone comes to you for help, don’t tell them to “man up” or “take a vacation”. Listen. Hear them out. Don’t give them solutions unless you are professionally trained to do so. Tell them that they can call you whenever they feel bad. Encourage them to seek professional help and follow up with them when they do. Build a support network of friends and family around this person. Talk about it. Break the stigma.