Today my social media feeds are full of tributes to Kate Spade, the handbag and fashion designer, who has reportedly killed herself at the age of 55. I feel so sad that someone could be in a place where taking their own life is a viable option: I have nothing but empathy in this situation. A 13 year old daughter is left behind, which is something I can’t begin to unpack. My heart goes out to her friends and family.
I’ve been listening to Joy Division and New Order recently: I didn’t realise how young Ian Curtis was when he committed suicide - he was 23 - and that also made me sad. Back in those days, there must have been little to no help available for people suffering from mental health issues. It feels like it took a while to put a name on depression, let alone start researching suitable treatment options.
People with mental health issues can slip through the cracks for many reasons: a lack of help; no access to resources; shame about needing help. And even if you can access the resources there doesn’t seem to be any guarantee - as has been proved once again, sadly. In an ideal world, the stigma surrounding depression would not exist. My cousin recently wrote an essay about his personal experience with depression that is well worth your time.
Someone else in my life has been looking after their mental health for several years now and I’m in awe of all the effort they make. However, I do struggle sometimes with knowing how honest I can be with this person because there is a constant fear at the back of my mind that “the worst” might happen. Can I lose my patience? Set boundaries that work for both of us? I’m still figuring it out and aiming to approach it with kindness - but I often worry that my words or actions could trigger something negative.
I see a lot of social media posts that implore people who may be suffering to "reach out and ask for help". Whilst I've no doubt that these tweets are nothing but well meaning, I've come to understand that this attitude only adds pressure to individuals struggling to ask for help. We're all still learning about how to help people in need but I've taken some great tips from the Still Processing podcast people. Generally put the effort in to be kind to others as you go about your daily life. Check in with your friends regularly, especially those who struggle with depression. Go round and do something for a friend who is going through a tough time.
I don’t hear or read much about mental health issues in France: there was one case of postpartum depression that I was told of (a friend of a friend) but that’s it. However, after a quick Google search I was quite shocked at the information I found. An article from 2012 claims that "More than one in five people in France has taken one of the four families of ‘psychotropic’ drugs – antidepressants, tranquillisers, sleeping pills and antipsychotic drugs – two-thirds of them women". Although an article published this year by The Local suggests that the French are in a more positive state of mind - or are they just heavily medicated? It is true that French doctors are heavy-handed when it comes to prescribing medicine - there's a pill to cure any ailment type thing - but I wonder if French people are also encouraged to see therapists as a form of treatment.
It would feel irresponsible to write about depression and not share some useful links: for yourself or for someone who you think may be struggling:
Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at email@example.com , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They're open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.
Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information depressionalliance.org
Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org
The Sanctuary (0300 003 7029 ) helps people who are struggling to cope - experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks or in crisis. You can call them between 8pm and 6am every night.