Thursday, 28 August 2008
Take My Hand.
According to the ABS, in 2005, 1636 Australians lost their lives on our roads.
That same year, 2101 people took their own lives. It accounted for 20% of all deaths in young men, aged between 20 and 34 years.
At least one in five Australians will experience some form of depression or mental illness in their life time.
In this country 5 people will take their lives each day. Five. Today, we're going to hear a lot about one of them.
Mark Priestly last night, after an apparent struggle with depression, appears to have died at his own hand. It is tragic. It is shocking. It's heartbreaking.
It is happening far, far too often. The overwhelmeing reaction: Shock. Not just that he has died. But that someone 'like him' can suffer from this beast. That someone who 'seemed' so together, so happy, is in fact, battling a terrible illness.
If you never 'hear' anything else I tell you, please, please hear this. Depression doesn't look like you think it does. Depression isn't just the 30 year old woman swishing down zoloft with her vodka cruiser at 2 in the afternoon. Depression isn't just the 15 year old girl with the too-dark eyeliner and the cuts on her arms. Depression isn't just the 40 year who's just lost his job, and his remaining dignity.
It's me, the 32 year old mother of two adorable boys and the perfect husband. Heavily involved in her church and her son's P&C. At the school, every day, surrounded by children and parents, smiling and laughing.
The person that others turn to in a crisis, because she is the 'calm' one or the 'smart' one or the helpful one. She's the considerate one who doesn't know how to say no to anyone, and you know it.
It's my friend, the successful businesswoman with the perfect hair and nails and clothes, the trendy car and the gorgeous home.
It's the 17 year old straight A student, with the world at his feet and his life just beginning. Who's parents come home to find the unthinkable.
It's my fellow bloggers, fabulous and successful, beautiful women, far smarter and more accomplished than I.
If you know me in real life, unless I've told you, you'd have know idea I'm neck deep in the blackest depression I've ever experienced. You'd never know that my good days, my "Up" days are nothing but numbness, swirls of grey and haze, where I almost long for the black and the red. Oh, the red. SO much of it now.
You'd never know that not even a year ago, I wanted to take my life. That I fantasised about how I'd do it. That still, now, I see it in my head, almost a video replay of something that never even happened. That the images of the impact still surface in my brain, unbidden, long enough to take my breath away and make my heart slam inside my chest.
You'd never know that just an hour before the last P&C Meeting (yes, the one where I made jokes, and delivered my report as always) I was in the midst of a massive anxiety attack, over nothing at all I could pinpoint. That my heartbeat sounded loud to my ears, that I was unable to speak, or eat, or focus on anything.
You'd never know that I don't answer my phone because the moment it rang, sweat appeared at my forehead, my legs started moving madly, of their own accord, as they are at this moment and I suddenly am unable to form coherant sentences, let alone deal with whatever drama you are dropping on my doorstep.
People suffering depression can, for a time, function. You won't see us on our blackest days, we simply won't let you. We'll show up for work on time. We'll bring our children, clean and dressed and fed and happy to school, and we'll fulfill all of our commitments. We'll study and shop and clean and work.
You'll not know. And that's not your fault. Hell, sometimes we can't even let our Doctors or Shrinks, our Husbands or our Best Friends know how we're feeling. How can you be expected to know?
What can you do? You can take notice. Notice the people around you, when you can. Connect where you can, you'll never know if you said just the right thing, just the perfect thing to stop the unthinkable.
Blog about it. Talk about depression, like it's not something to be ashamed of. Let people know that this is an illness, not a weakness. And that there is help available. Beat down the stigma. That, more than anything, is taking precious lives.
And stop letting depression be taboo. This is far too common, far too desperate to remain a secret illness. It's taking far too many of our friends and our family members, our workmates and our children. It's time to stand up and be honest. This is happening. THis is happening to far more people than we want to acknowledge. And it's going to take those of us in the middle of the storm, to tell the people who can't see.
Take my hand, we can do it together.
My thoughts are with Mark Priestly's family, his friends and his colleagues.
But my thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the other 4 people who will make the same choice today.
If you are struggling, please, please talk to someone. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Go to www.beyondblue.org.au