Hold Out Your Hand
Recently, the death of the celebrity Robin Williams has dominated both news media and social media. I’m glad it has, because it has led to a lot of public discussion about depression. It is high time we all started to hold out a hand to help each other through the tough times.
An Invisible Affliction
For too long, depression has remained an invisible affliction. A secret burden that is carried not just by the individual but also by their loved ones. More people suffer from depression at some time in their lives than we know, and some of them might be people you see every day. This video is a very good introduction to understanding how depression can affect sufferers:
These are still tough times for many in Plymouth. We may be in the “tail end” of the worst economy the world has ever seen, but the emotional effects are still here and likely to be with our communities for years to come. There are people around us that are going through mental anguish which we couldn’t possibly imagine. People in Plymouth who have had to close shops, lay off staff, close businesses that have been going for years. Yet on the surface they can seem happy, smiling and well-adjusted. The fact is that we don’t know how those around us are feeling under the surface. So the next time you feel like snapping at someone because they seem slow or distracted, hold your tongue. They may be dealing with more than you know. Things that might have broken a weaker person.
It was recently reported that something in the region of 3,500 youngsters were diagnosed with a mental health problem in Plymouth in the space of a year. Plymouth City Council this year revealed that over 26,000 18 to 64-year-olds are calculated to be living with a mental health disorder. Also, 3,700 over 65s in Plymouth are estimated to be suffering from depression.
I know many people that suffer from depression. Too many. I know people with cancer, mental illness. I know people who are coping with close family members suffering from horrible long-term conditions such as Dementia. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a doctor here in Plymouth and he confided in me that many patients who have come to him with depression were small business owners. I know a lovely hard-working lady who has recently lost her job after years of loyal service. It isn’t fair on them, but it’s still true. If we met most of these people at work, or in the pub, or on the Hoe, we’d probably never know they had to carry such heavy loads. I would love to be able to take that burden from their shoulders. But it doesn’t work that way. So instead, whenever I can, I try to hold out my hand to support them when they need it. Sometimes they take it, sometimes they don’t; but it’s there anyway.
Hold Out Your Hand
That’s why I’m writing this article. It would be great if you could hold out your hand too. Imagine a great network of people hold out supportive hands for anyone that needs it. We all face hardship at different times in our lives. Some of us are only here today because we found a supportive hand at just the right moment. So I urge you to hold out your hand when you can. Without fanfares, without conditions, and without stigma. Maybe we can make a small, invisible difference because what happened to Robin Williams is happening quietly, terribly to our neighbours every day.
Where to Get Help
If you need help or know someone that does, Plymouth has some amazing people and organisations. Here are a few:
Your Doctor – Your GP is the best first point of contact if you have been feeling low for a while. Your condition is always best assessed by a medical professional.
Plymouth Mind (click for website) – Plymouth & District Mind Association is the local centre of excellence for mental health advice, information and support for all sections of the community in Plymouth. Tel: 01752 512280
The Zone (click for website) – The Zone offers a wide range of information, advice and support services for 13 – 25 year olds in Plymouth and the surrounding area. Tel: 01752 206626
Plymouth Options (click for website) – The Plymouth Options team offer a range of services to people experiencing common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. They are part of Plymouth Community Healthcare and offer help to anyone over the age of 16 who needs it, free of charge. Tel: 01752 435419
The Samaritans (click for website) – As well as supporting people in need, volunteers for Plymouth Samaritans, play an important part in the local community. If you need to talk to someone urgently about how you’re feeling, call the Samaritans on 01752 221666
If you know of any organisations that we haven’t included here, please let me know by leaving a comment below or contact me on Twitter, Facebook, etc.