EDITORIAL: Support those with mental illnesses

Friday October 12 2018

By JENNY LUESBY

Is happiness a right? For if it is, the millions of people deprived of it thanks to mental health issues deserve our thoughts following the World Mental Health Day 2018, held on October 10. For sure, they are not alone in getting short-changed in life.

For those without eye sight, or limbs, without the capacity to talk, or write, or walk, life has delivered a harder journey than for the rest of us, albeit we rarely stop to think on our own blessings. But of all the trials delivered on people, poor mental health is one of the hardest.

And one of the extra burdens in that is the public horror and even ignorance, and certainly lack of compassion and priority to support, for those suffering on mental health. For mental health is not a winner versus loser situation.

It opens with a loser, in the human grappling with instability and life-destroying issues. It can add other losers, in family, friends and colleagues.

Yet any hope of stopping the unhappiness spreading into more unhappiness, and making one loser become many losers, requires greater attention and help for all of us in understanding and flushing this issue out into the daylight.

As it is, we are very short indeed of psychiatrists. It is even shorter of therapists, or any services or attention to mental and emotional trauma.

And the results of that are actually viral.If you allow a youngster to wage an unaided war on depression that culminates in suicide, that youngsters’ family then face their own ordeal with depression: one becomes many

If you allow a wounded child to develop a personality disorder that then sees them maim and cheat all around them, the unhappiness factor multiplies, with many more hurt and injured along the way.

And yet our modern world seems to have opened up unique amendments to society that is fostering that spread of unhappiness.

The first way in which our world has changed is in our closeness and longevity of attachment, indeed, in the cohesiveness of our societies. Globally, we are all more mobile.

The proportion of us that grow up, live and function in any close-knit community, built on deep knowledge and the inevitable acceptance that come with close proximity, has become smaller. That, in turn, has moved us to the ‘soda pop’ version of human relationships.

Did we get the most sparkling bottle in this person before us? Our options now wide open, and our lives, now inherently transient and ‘human-selective’ have, indeed, begun to move through an uglier door.

In our connected era, the new, global monster, the narcissist, follows hard on the heels of the sociopath, and before that the psychopath. We are urged to abandon ‘toxic people’.

The tenor is to look after ourselves in this race to the end, and throw the struggling out of the lifeboat. But we actually can do better than that. In some societies, there are volunteers who man phones for those considering suicide.

They are called Samaritans. The media places those helpline numbers at the base of every story of human trauma: about the man who killed his family in despair, about the boy who killed himself and his girlfriend on an unsupported HIV+ diagnosis, about the simple, traumatic reality of witnessing horror, or of suffering abuse.

Samaritans is a big notion to abandon in our societal creep. As it is, we cannot ‘rescue’ the mentally unhealthy from their battle within. But do we really have to set aside all aid and compassion? Can we not find a bigger place in our hearts, and budgets, and services, for those who suffer? It is Winston Churchill who said we make a livelihood from what we take, but a life from what we give.

And his meaning is profound. For when we stop giving, we make ourselves smaller. And those in trouble or misery need help and support. Not rejection and stoning.

So, as we mark this day, maybe it’s for each of us to consider, can we give more, work to understand better, strive to aid those less fortunate then ourselves? Or did we only arrive here to find the best models and consume them?

Jenny Luesby is a journalist and entrepreneur.