Most of us associate the holidays with good times. Maybe some slightly annoying times (Susan at your office Christmas party, the inappropriate uncle or embarrassing mum and dad at your family get-together, paying for overnight delivery but receiving gifts a week late – you get the drift) too, but on the whole, it’s all about fun, love and giving. But sadly (and increasingly) there are also people for whom the holidays are painful, sad and lonely, and it’s these people the rest of us need to show up for at this time of year (and beyond). And today, rather than wax lyrical about Ibiza as always, I’d like to dedicate this blog space to what we can do to make a difference.
I want to start by saying I’m by no means an expert; at the bottom of this blog is a list of people who are. I am very fortunately one of the aforementioned people who loves the holidays, however at the same time, I am also someone who has been affected by suicide at this time of year. I am someone whose friends and family have been heavily affected by depression; I am someone whose local community revolves heavily around never-ending good times, and I am someone who is becoming more and more aware that these never-ending good times are the cause of some seriously dark and troubled times for those around me. And I am not the only one – I don’t think anyone is immune these days.
Despite the fact the topic of mental health is becoming more and more prominent in our society these days, there are still far too many people suffering in silence. While suicide has no bias – it happens within all age groups, all nationalities, all backgrounds, all communities, all income brackets, all genders and non-genders and so much more – there is currently an epidemic of men committing suicide. It’s the highest cause of death among men aged under 45 in the UK alone, while every 40 seconds around the world, a person takes their own life. That’s coming close to one million per year. On top of that, statistics show that for every one person who commits suicide, there are around 20 more who have attempted it (and those are only the ones who have disclosed it, there could be many more). This is absolutely heartbreaking, and to those of us left behind, it’s baffling.
We cannot fathom how the person in question didn’t know or understand how loved they were, or that they didn’t think there was anyone to talk to, or that they just couldn’t see any other way out. We (and when I say we, I mean those of us who are not struggling with their own mental health) can’t understand it, because we are not suffering the way they were. We see all the ways that things could have/should have/would have improved if only they had reached out. If only. It’s the phrase you see most often in online tributes to those who have taken their only lives. If only he’d reached out to me. If only she knew how loved she was. If only she could see the outpouring of support for her now. But ‘if only’ always comes too late.
In many cases, we’re not aware that other people are suffering in silence. Sometimes it’s the happiest, most fun people in your life who have been experiencing the darkest times (this is prevalent in Ibiza, and the dance music industry in general) for many years. So what can we do? We can do is listen more carefully. We can pay attention. We can encourage our friends to talk more (with our real voices, because texts and online chats or social networking can be so easily misunderstood or not taken seriously), to listen more, to encourage more human connection. Allow our friends to express their thoughts and opinions without judgement. Of course, it’s not easy – we’re not therapists or doctors. We don’t know what the warning signs are; sometimes there are no warning signs at all. This link is particularly helpful if you are concerned about someone: https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/worried-about-someone/
If you happen to be the person who is feeling like there’s no way out – THIS is the sign that you need to reach out NOW. If you feel like you can’t be honest and authentic with your friends, family or community, there are support networks out there where you can speak to someone completely non-judgemental (see below), and confidentially. The world we’re living in today is a very very different place to just 10 years ago – so much has changed that can make day to day life much more difficult. Social media gives us a façade to hide our truths, our authentic selves, to project a different image to how we actually feel on the inside. While most of us have down days, or experience sadness, loss, grief at some stage of our lives, we also know that time – along with the support of friends, family and professionals – can help heal everything. If you feel like you are an exception to this, please, please, please think again. There is no problem that doesn’t have a solution.
It’s OK not to feel OK. It’s even more OK to admit you don’t feel OK and to reach out and ask for help. There is zero shame in reaching out – it could just be the thing that saves, and changes, your life. They say on average that when one person takes their own life, 135 people (on average) are directly affected. If only they knew that before making such a tragic decision. When it’s someone who is a vital part of a community (say, dance music and Ibiza), the amount of people who are affected is monumental. Every one of these people are human: daughters, mothers, sons, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours, even customers. What they are not is hopeless, helpless, a burden or alone, no matter how much it may feel that way.
We have so much to learn about mental health. About depression. About grief. About addiction. About anxiety. About chronic pain. About the many, many conditions that cause suffering on a daily basis. But what we do know is that suicide can be prevented with the right support. Please share this blog with anyone you think may need to read it; share it with as many people as you can – because we all need to be more aware of being there for one another, more so now than ever before. It doesn’t have to be a blue Christmas… but it would be without you.
HELPFUL PHONE NUMBERS AND LINKS Thank you to the many friends of mine who posted these helpful links and information on social media this morning after yet another devastating tragedy in the dance music community. We hope by sharing them here on this platform they may reach people in need, or those who can help others in need.