Is it when you start to feel overwhelmed; when leaving your home feels impossible; when speaking to friends provides no respite; or when you start coping in ways that harm more than help. Is it when you start making plans to end your life?
At what point should help be sought? Maybe it’s not so obvious.
There is a perception that those in need of support, those truly afflicted by mental illness, are at a stage where they are non-functional. Sleep fails, personal care is neglected, job performance plummets, and despair dominates. Although accurate for some, and truly frightening if felt, this is not the case for many.
Indeed, for many, mental illness evolves insidiously, quietly but relentlessly taking hold of your life. Leaving those affected in a state of autopilot, appearing to perfectly manage. Left to suffer in silence, unnoticed. Left to dangerously deteriorate, feeling undeserving of help.
So, to be clear, there is no set point where seeking support becomes acceptable. The right time is when you feel able.
No singular significant trauma is needed to justify struggling or feeling low. There is no shame in needing help. However, I do appreciate seeking comfort from those closest can be incredibly daunting. Fears of judgement, belittlement and rejection can be overwhelming, making such conversations seem impossible.
Thankfully other outlets do exist. A multitude of specialist providers exist, who are available to provide support without the need for justification and will never view you as a burden. And we must also stop viewing such services as a final port of call for when life feels unbearable, and more a system to prevent crises from occurring. No one should be left to suffer alone.
Although mental illness does not discriminate, some demographics are affected with greater severity, namely young men.
Boys are educated early to show no fear and shed few tears, independent of their true emotions. Crying has become synonymous with weakness and requiring help has somehow been misconstrued as emasculating.
Such views are clearly wrong. Acknowledging you need support is brave. And reaching out for help is nothing short of incredible.
I hope that one day we can view caring for mental well-being as positively as we view caring for physical health. I hope that one day suicide isn’t the greatest killer of men under 45.
Maintaining your health is urgent. Caring for your well-being is urgent. Ensuring you are safe is urgent.
So, if you are struggling, please do reach out, whether that be to friends and family, specialist services, or healthcare professionals. Because there is nothing more important than your life.
Caitlin Delavaine, BMA Scotland