Time to Change is a campaign / programme with the strap line “let’s end mental health discrimination”. Earlier today, I became number 62693 of those who have pledged on the website to work to that end.
I started the post with a Time to Change pen, given to me by one of its champions, when I lost mine, and this in the aftermath of Robin William’s tragic death, where the issue of depression has been raised, and also suicide, in which depression is often one of the main contributory reasons. It all got me thinking: “it is time to change”!
I earlier paid my tribute to the great man and so has many others. Sadly, there has been insensitive reporting regarding the nature and circumstances of his death, as well as some more sensitive reporting.
One of the more positive reports is that of the Telegraph: “Robin Williams dies: depression is a cloak of lead, a toxic second skin.” In it, the writer pleas for more understanding toward and support for those experiencing depression. I took some issue with him making the distinction between those who are long term severely depressed and those whose depression is merely a reaction to circumstances and events, based on my understanding that we are presented with a four dimensional continuum between good and bad mental health, and all of us are somewhere along that continuum, and that point may be continually changing. Overall though, I felt the report was basically sound and contained a clarion call for us to do something.
I have written about depression in my book: “Spirituality and mental health”, based on personal observations and experiences, available on this website. I have reflected long and hard on depression; causes, conditions, cures, consequences and a whole lot more, most likely the number one mental (ill) health condition. What is more, while we may discern patterns and principles, every person is different and the way we approach ought to be different also. I will never pretend to understand all what a depressed person is going through, but I have experienced long periods of depression throughout my own life and know the darkness, despair and desolation that can result and what it is to wish that I was dead.
I agree with Stephen Fry who said: “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
I was tempted to go off on all sorts of tangents when considering this subject, although many of my thoughts are in my book anyway, but I will refrain. What matters is that it is possible to live a full life despite living with depression, and maybe an even fuller one than those who haven’t experienced depression, because of the empathy you might be able to show to others. There is help out there, and while there are cruel and insensitive people, there are those who do what Stephen Fry says, who will be able to help. While I am not a good example when it comes to my confiding with others my own pain, I still think it is right to do so. I have discovered however dark one’s own situation may appear, there is always light and hope.
The subject of suicide is a difficult one. Firstly, it is never my place, or anyone else’s come to that, to judge those who do take their own life, for that is God’s prerogative only. Life is a gift and while life can be painful, it is never in vain. No-one knows whether our days will be few or many but your life, whoever you may be or however you view yourself remains precious. For this reason, I cannot bring myself to support assisted dying and will persuade those who are thinking of ending their life not to do so.
As for the here and now, this is the time to change when it comes to challenging mental health stigma and discrimination.