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A Life threatening Illness. Wednesday February 3, 2016

Isn't it time we stopped pretending?

Depression can and does kill.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

It kills a lot of women too – but the fact is that over 75% of all suicide deaths are men.

4,624 of them last year.

Oh, and just to clear something up; yes, more women than men attempt suicide. The men just seem to be more successful at it.

I'd like to say that I am uniquely qualified to write this blog as I lost a father to suicide in 1967, I lost an uncle to suicide in 2008, I lost another friend just last year.

But I'm sadly not unique, or even particularly unusual.

And I'm surely not the only one here, or even in the minority reading this, who has done more than flirted with that precipice, who has thought about it. I have not just wanted to die, I have actively planned my death. Quite a few times. Somehow, by the grace of God. Or just because I procrastinated that one extra day that allowed for healing, I'm still here, writing this.

And I'd never want my mother to know how close I've come or how many times.

So I want this to be a bit of a wake-up call for us. We need to take our illness seriously. And we need to make others take our illness more seriously.

My forty year old neighbour has cancer. It's for the second time of asking and she's facing a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and then radiotherapy. We're all putting a brave face on it. We're all expressing interest in her treatment, planning how we can help out the family while she's going through it. We're thinking positive thoughts. But you know what? Behind it all is the thought "Oh, what a tragedy it would be if she doesn't make it. For that family to lose a wife and mother so young..."

Because we take cancer seriously. These days we'll all talk about it. There's no shame in it.

So for goodness' sake can we please talk about depression? Let's do our research on it. Let's discuss treatments and drugs and recovery rates.

And if we lose someone to this terrible illness, we must not for one moment let that little comment slide past us. You know – the one where people say "I wonder what he can be thinking of, that he felt he had nothing to live for?"

He. Was. Ill. He died from his illness, not through choice, any more than a cancer or a heart disease patient dies through choice. It was not "selfish", it was not a moral failing. It was his (or her) illness.

And I for one would like to see this illness treated with the same respect and given the same funding as cancer. A world where depression was easily diagnosed, treated and cured: how would that be?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Mr A non Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:01am

WOW Powerfull stuff Mary Superb Blog I'm lost for words I've got to read it again Brilliant

Laura Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:03am

Thank you, Mary, for refusing to pretend anymore. There's even stigma around suicide and depression among the mentally ill - and those whose jobs it is to help us! Depression kills, even more in the U.S. (I think). Depression sucks the life, the energy, the passion out of you. It sucks the will to live out of you. Thank you for bringing it out in the open.

Ruth Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:17am

So so true! Only this month I'm again for the 3rd time in my life struggling to 'stay here' and the hardest battle by far is the feeling of being alone with no one or where to turn without feelings of shame or guilt, emptiness l call it. Bring on the day when you can walk into a dr's or hospital with depression without the added worry of being taken seriously, l bet those figures would look alot different then.

danielle Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:30am

Ruth you are in my thoughts, and I hope this rough spell passes soon for you xxxx

Lesley Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 7:59pm

Ruth, wherever you are, without meaning to be in anyway presumptive or otherwise I find the beautiful imagery by Jason Stephenson and Michael Sealey on Youtube empowering. They have free hypnosis tracks on Youtube.

Nick Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:55am

The Samaritans, free phone: 116123, are 24 hours and seven days a week. They have always give me a good listening to, when I needed it, and I didn't feel judged, it did help. xx

Lou Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 7:39am

Nice turn of phrase; "They have always give me a good listening to" Well put :)

Melissa Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 5:04pm

I have called them. They have saved my life. I was despondent one night at 3:00am. Did not want to call friends or family. The woman at the other end of the phone was like an angel. So kind, so deeply listening. Empathizing without pity or condescension. I spoke with her for 30 min. Sobbing. And then I could sleep. She saved my life that night.

Lesley Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 7:59pm

Very powerful words, Melissa.

Lou Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 7:38am

Powerful words indeed Mary. If only those who have never been there would actually hear them and, as you say, take it seriously without adding shame we would be fighting a winning battle for once.

Alex Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:04am

I've had three friends suicide. One, back in the early 1960s, a child, as I was. In the Brownies together. She had an ultrastrict religious mother: hanged herself. Nine or ten, we were. The other two, both had depression. Can't talk about it....

Bereaved by Suicide Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:06am

What a fantastic post Mary, thank you for sharing. My husband died of suicide and I tell people he died of a brain attack, likening to heart attacks. Sometimes you can have one or two and you get treated and get better, sometimes several and one kills you, sometimes you have a massive one out of the blue, which kills you or you survive it as you're found and get the help you need. As with heart attacks, sometimes there will have been reasons that only become obvious after the person has died, other times, as with my husband (and my father who had heart disease) there is a long pattern of illness and for those of us caring it's like a sword of Damocles, never knowing when it's going to fall (this is how my Mum used to describe Dad's illness). I use this analogy because I find it mutes those questions of 'how could he have done it?', I know of at least one child bereavement counsellor who uses it to help people understand and I hope other people on this thread might find it of benefit. I am so glad that you are surviving your illness Mary and hopefully getting the help you need on a sustained basis. The world is a much richer place with you in it; quite apart from your obvious empathy and compassion you are such a great writer. Mxxx

danielle Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:21am

Hello M, this is a very good analogy and so true. We cannot choose when we have a physical illness and it is the same with mental illness. thank you for sharing and lots of love xxx

Mary Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 10:32am

Thank you. Just thank you. I don't have any more words at the moment. But thank you. And - I am so sorry for your loss.

LillyPet Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:14am

Morning Mary,
I'm 100% with you on this. Just for mental health to be treated equally to physical illness.
Thankfully mine hasnt been life threatening, but I agree with Nick. The Samaritans are excellent. I called once when I had a crisis and felt that I just couldnt cope with everything. I am in such a different place now. It's not anything like the same I know. Making a simple action for help will get you through a crisis. I was then shifted enough to search for help, on the internet on my phone from my bed. Taking a small step of action is all it takes and I've heard survivors say the same.

You are so right Mary. A life threatening illness must be treated as such.
Thank goodness for charities. Alot of research has been done and there is alot of sound knowledge and experience around us.

Thank you Mary. Warm hugs to All. LP xx

Hopeful One Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:22am

Hi Mary- Hear hear. It is time this taboo subject was publicly addressed as you suggest.

But it can still be a subject of humour -black humour as befits the subject.( I am NOT undermining the seriousness of the topic in any way)

A man is sitting in a bar with his pint looking sad. A burly man walks in and says ' I don't like adult men crying over their beer' and promptly swigs his pint.The man says ' You don't understand. I got up this morning and bumped my head , then I was late for work and my boss fired me. I collected my things but when I went to look for my car it was stolen. I phoned the police and they said they would look into it. I ordered a taxi to take me home but forgot my box and my wallet in the taxi . I went into the house and found my wife in bed with the next door neighbour. I came to the bar planning finish my life and now look what you have done. You have drunk my poison'

danielle Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:29am

HO your ability to make us laugh is so beautiful - do not ever give up telling your jokes they are wonderful!!! xxxx

Lou Thu, Feb 4th 2016 @ 7:25am

OH - I love your jokes -they never fail to make me laugh! Thank you! :)

danielle Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:27am

Mary, a poignant and important blog. Well done for raising it. I couldn't agree more. I think so so many do not understand that often mental illness is also a physical one - we have a physical chemical imbalance (not all, but some) which can cause the illness. Just like a virus can cause illness or a broken bone can cause pain, or cells can cause cancer. Saying this, and I agree with you whole heartedly 100% - I find myself keeping my illness a secret. No one at work knows, I muddle through 60% of the time (was more before meds), very few friends and family know. The ones who know (except my OH) never ever ask me about it or how I am doing, yet we have an aunt who has had numerous stomach troubles and is now being fed through a tube temporarily (not nice for her but not life threatening) and everyone asks. A colleague has broken her ankle and upon returning to work everyone asks how she is etc, she was not afraid to take 3 weeks off to let the bones heal so why are we so afraid to tell people. I wish I wasnt and I wish I could tell more people that I am sick and that they shouldnt be afraid. My OH is so very supportive but even he says he cannot fully identify because he hasnt experienced it himself, he says when someone has a broken leg for example then people find it easier to identify. who knows, but I do know that it has to change. xxxx

Lex Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 9:11am

A simply excellent blog, Mary. Thank you. L'xx

Rats Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 9:39am

Hi Mary, what an excellent blog. I am currently off work due to my anxiety and depression (your blog has inspired me to stop referring to it as my 'illness'). A relative recently asked if I 'was enjoying my time off'. A well meaning comment, but not one you would be using with me if I was off due to Cancer treatment. Plus there is the feeling that some see these issues as being my fault and completely under my control. Again, you wouldn't use such sentiments with someone with a physical illness. I recently came across Dr Guy Winch's TED talk on emotional first aid which hit so many chords with me. We don't give ourselves the first aid which our emotions need, but we would if they were physical problems. Thank you Mary for highlighting this so eloquently.

Salt Water Mum Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 9:44am

Thank you Mary for a powerful blog.

Alex, I just want to say my heart goes out to you. We have recently mourned the tragic death of a child in similar horrendous circumstances and it's heartbreaking and inexplicable.
I have few words of comfort for my children. Thankfully, lots of hugs though.

I have found myself trying to talk about mental health to my kids in a way I never imagined I would have to. In an age appropriate way of course but it all feels so deeply inappropriate on an emotional and psychological level. Especially when talking about a little pet of a child.

Mary is right, we need to talk about this illness. We need to normalise it. We need to take the fear out of it. As M said - 'brain attack' instead of 'heart attack'.

Depression in all its guises is scary because we can't see it. So, we just have to look a lot harder. And talk. And listen.


Rupert Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 9:47am

Great blog Mary. It is so refreshing that we can talk about this so openly on this forum. It is almost impossible to discuss it with a 3rd party particularly someone who is close to you as they are understandably scared by it and struggle to understand what you are going through. As mentioned above the Samaritans are an amazing organisation and I have spoken to them several times at very dark moments which has helped to put some perspective on things. Well done. Rupert

Angela Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 9:55am

My Cousin's son took his life 2 years ago, aged 42. He'd struggled with M.H. problems all his life, it's SO sad.

Les Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 10:05am

Hi Mary - Fab blog...... Head Attack - love it. Oh - if only there was time and money and care to explore the mind as they have done the body and provide a more compassionate service in the NHS.

Catherine Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 10:13am

So sad to hear Angela sorry.
Brilliant blog Mary I sometimes think that if MH issues were referred to as cancer of the mind people may begin to see that are like cancer they sometimes kill and that the people living with them are involved in a struggle.

Salt Water Mum Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 10:14am

Thank you Rats for the tip - I have just watched Dr Guy Winch give his TED talk - informative and inspiring.
Right - back to work now!

Rats Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:53pm

I'm glad you found it useful SWM. Today has been a very high anxiety day for me and I attempted plenty of emotional first aid on myself and got myself through. My 'proud' score is going to be unusually high tomorrow.

Peter Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 10:35am

Thank-you Mary - I am glad to have read that and delighted that you were here to write it. Very sorry for all those bereaved by this terrible illness.

susan Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 10:50am

Who cannot be in tears who knows the truth of your words, Mary, and those of everyone here. Compassion mixed with a considerable degree of frustration. My aunt committed suicide and the illness runs through the women on that side of my family. I have experienced a small brain attack (thank you, M) only once and its destructive fierceness scared me beyond anything. The suicidal thoughts that come and go with less extreme depression sit further back from that edge but are nevertheless dangerous. We can all do our small bit to get this awareness out there. It will reach mainstream thinking eventually and Moodscope is certainly an important instrument for that. Thank you, Mary and everyone. love xx

Norman Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 11:02am

Thanks for that Mary, powerful stuff.
Awareness is key to this. When we hear about suicide it usually comes out of the blue as we were unaware of the underlying depression. We are much more open and therefore aware of physical illness so there is no element of surprise.

We also seek cause and effect. We are unsurprised by suicude following bankruptcy and disgrace, in some societies it is the "honourable way out." I believe that in the British Army an officer facing disgrace would be left with a revolver and a bottle of whisky. If we are unaware of the illness we can't see the link and try to make sense of it: "s/he had everything to live for."

The gender gap is interesting. Perhaps women give more intended and unintended clues, whereas men are better at hiding feelings?

Another Sally Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 12:02pm

Thank you so much Mary for a thought provoking blog.
My daughter had a brain attack late last year. Thankfully she survived and is receiving help. I find it hard, as she lives on the other side of the world. I am going to visit her soon though and am looking forward to that. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected.
Another Sally

The Gardener Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 3:25pm

Brave Mary to bring 'it' out into the open. In my 5 years with SAMS we never had a suicide of one of our 'regulars' as far as we knew. We had a drug addict daughter-in-law. After five years of intensive effort our son was driven to hopelessness - and she was deliberately taunting him to harm her - breaking all his family presents - trying to break up family relationships - I started taking her to her psychiatrist. One day, she'd been awful, he said 'you're not mad, you're bad'. She screamed abuse at him and stormed out. I said 'thanks, now I'll have to scrape her off the railway line'. He said 'that sort never commit suicide'. Whether he was right I don't know - when I found her she was lowering a bottle of vodka with her mother. A little while previously (when our son had given up) a neighbour came to say the girl had slashed her wrists. I went and sorted the mess out - all it was - she was pretty clever and knew just how far to go. She is now leading a happy life in Cyprus, I think, long divorced from our son, thank heavens. The suicides of people I have known a little have usually been drug related - two from consequences of depression. I'm getting very near - now have a list of contacts. But, always the thought uppermost (hope it will last) is the extreme harm such an action will have on our family (and, perhaps I flatter myself, on the many friends who have propped me up). Three of the team who keep us going had said 'you are crucifying your wife'I had kept the flame of hope alive - interest in the future - but now Mr TG seems hell-bent on destroying me mentally. Non-stop quarrelling and making sure I never achieve anything. People (me among them) try to say he's as innocent as a babe now and not responsible for his actions. But there is so much manipulation that there MUST be some thinking behind it. He revved me up consistently from 5.30 yesterday evening till 1.30 a.m. As he really scourges me with sarcasm, petulance, pettiness, self-pity, accusations of not looking after him properly, I am back to my youth - living with this all the time - father yelling, mother crying - then days of silence and off they went again. I have a busy programme coming up - including family visits - and it's getting lighter, I will not have to live in an over-heated cell with hardly any light - Mr TG's preferred ambience - someone, brighter days lighten the load - and thoughts of the river, or a bottle of wine and a packet of sleeping pills will recede, hopefully for ever.

Ruth Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 4:22pm

Twice I have tried to kill myself and twice my body has refused to let me. I desperately wanted to die.
If I had a serious physical illness I would probably have had sympathy and support. I was told I was selfish, pathetic and buck up we all feel a bit down sometimes. I accept its hard to walk in others' shoes but it's good to try. I absolutely agree the Samaritans are great. Mary, I got a lot of wisdom from your post. Thank you.

Anonymous Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 4:29pm

Oh! dear it brought back memories, a few years ago I walked into the sea hoping to end it all, I am a strong swimmer and just was not able to let go. I walked back up the beach past some life guards one said to me in aloud voice we were watching you thought you were trying to end it all, they all laughed. I didn't say anything just walked on, too stunned.
When I look back I didn't even leave a letter. Many times when I am really low (I'm bi polar) want to find an easy way out.
I am terrified of my husband dying (he's not ill or anything) he does know, but I love him, and cannot bare the thought of losing him, but have this morbid fear. that has been with me for years. Just so afraid of being alone.
I'm well at the moment, but it's there in the background, always ready to pop out at me.

Mary Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:14pm

Yes - it's always there. We learn to live (ha ha) with it. Like the sea, the desire to die ebbs and flows.If, in the darkest times we can hold on to the fact that this tide too will ebb away then we can carry on swimming. Thank you so much for trusting us and sharing. Go safely and softly, friend.

Melissa Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 5:19pm

Mary, you always put your words together in the most powerful and beautiful way. I am awestruck. Thank you for verbalizing and validating what those of us with severe depression experience. I have always said its like brain cancer. Very painful, sometimes goes into remission. But when it returns, it's so painful and demoralizing. We are very, very strong people for living through this illness. I commend us all.

Mary Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:14pm

Indeed Melissa. Indeed.

Nicola Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 6:42pm

Beautifully written Mary, and I really could not agree more. It is difficult to explain to those who haven't been there, but this is a horribly debilitating illness.

Rebecca Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 @ 8:11pm

Great blog Mary.x

Chris Thu, Feb 4th 2016 @ 12:17am

I couldn't agree more. I tried to kill myself in 2001, couldn't and got help instead, and have been doing mental health awareness work ever since, including suicide prevention work for the NHS from 2004 to 2009. Depression is the major factor behind most, if not all, suicides. It's a potential killer, and deserves more attention, and resources.
PS It's now time to talk day! Keep it up Mary!

Anonymous Thu, Feb 4th 2016 @ 9:20am

Mary, so very many thanks for your inspiration. During the past 14 years, hostage to the stigma of depression - my own and that of my immediate family - like you, I have 'more than flirted with that precipice'. Finally, however, mercifully, I have been able to talk to an enlightened GP, who has taken the trouble to hear what I am saying and offered support at a critical time. I hope to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by such a large number of sufferers too afraid to speak out. Go well.

Liz Sat, Feb 13th 2016 @ 9:55pm

Fabulous energy and anger beautifully expressed - well said Mary. Keep safe.

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