Well, what can I say?! It sure feels like I’ve spent my whole life, from as far back as I can remember, navigating through one maze after another – whether it’s trying to find my way out of a dead-end after refusing to follow Sat Nav directions or trying to find my way out of a personal circumstance or work situation. I consider myself quite lucky in the sense that whatever life’s sent my way, I’ve not had to spend too long finding my way to the end of each maze in comparison to so many other people.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week where we continue to break down the stigma of mental health illness. As we know, 1 in 4 of us will personally experience mental health illness at some point in our lives. Let’s take a moment to think about that and apply it in real terms to who we know. How many immediate or close family members do you have? How many people are in your friends and/or acquaintance circles? How many colleagues are in your immediate work area or in your division? How many people do you see/speak to regularly on your daily commute? The list goes on.
Now just think……1 in 4 of the people in each of those groups may well be going through a mental health illness at this very moment. Now let’s think again….has anyone in any of those groups been acting differently lately – it could be anything…..anything at all. Has their behaviour changed? Have they stopped calling, texting? Do they cancel coffee breaks, lunch/dinner plans, partying at the last minute? Do they seem irritable? Do they seem distant? Have they stopped doing things they used to enjoy doing? Are they laughing less……I mean real laughter? Anyone can smile even when they’re going through intense emotional torment but it’s difficult to genuinely laugh if they’re finding it difficult to find joy in things. Are they doing certain things excessively over a sustained period of time…..eating, drinking, gambling, spending?
Think further….if you’ve noticed any of those things or anything else that’s different, what have you thought or done? It’s so easy to walk away, to dismiss, to ignore but what if that person is lost in their own personal Mental Health maze? Maybe they wandered into the maze through bereavement, marriage breakdown, the loss of a loved one, financial crisis, loss of a job, their home, high expectations from themselves and others. Maybe they’ve wandered in because of how their brain works. Whatever the reason, they’re frustrated, they’ve been stumbling around lost for some time, they can’t find a way out, they’re scared, they’re alone, they want out…..they don’t care how, they just want out of the dead ends and wrong turns. They want to be free.
For those of you stuck in a maze, there are people who want to help but they won’t know you’re stuck unless you call out. Don’t be ashamed if you call out but don’t know exactly what you want someone to do for you. The important thing is that someone hears you so they can come find you and be by your side, ready to lead you out of the maze at your pace and in your time. The important thing is that they hold your hand so that you no longer feel scared and alone.
To those of us lucky enough to be outside a maze at this particular point in our lives, please keep an ear out. Someone’s asking for help. It may not be in the way you’d expect but someone needs you to go be by their side and hold their hand with no expectation, no judgement, just kindness, patience and love for a fellow human being.
My call to those who need help and those who want to help – Reach out your hand.