I once knew a guy who, for the sake of this article, we will call Jay. Everything seemed to be going well for Jay – He was always smiling, energetic, and his promotion business he recently started was doing well. He had a beautiful girlfriend, loved to party, and generally seemed to always be in a high state of affairs.
And then he committed suicide.
“But it doesn’t make sense”, I thought to myself. “He seemed so happy.”
But that’s the problem with mental health… You never know.
Robin Williams also just committed suicide – And while it has been well documented that comedians suffer from a myriad of mental health issues, he just seemed so enthusiastic. His work brought tears of joy to many.
But we cannot see inside a person’s mind – We can’t see what they are feeling or going through.
And that is really tragic, and is causing so many individuals with mental health issues to never receive any form of help.
The Issue With Mental Health Diagnosis
Another problem when discussing mental health with terms like “depression”, “anxiety”, and “self-esteem issues”, is that it is discussed in a neutral or grounded reference frame (for extreme nerds reading this article, consider it a Newtonian frame of reference). While this helps target possible modes of therapy, I think it trivializes what the person is going.
“I have these thoughts where I never think I’ll be good enough, and I’m scared of doing anything, and what if people reject me, and…”
“Sounds like you have anxiety and self-esteem issues.”
“BUT YOU DON’T SEE OR FEEL WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH. HOW CAN YOU JUST GIVE IT A ONE SENTENCE NAME? THAT’S FUCKING AGGRAVATING!”
How we should REALLY be regarding mental health is with respect to each individual’s own frame of reference (nerds: relative frames of reference).
What I mean is that yes, we can classify individuals as depressives and move to using methods that can help them. But, we should still be empathetic and conscious of the fact that each person only knows the emotions, thoughts, and habit patterns relative to them… Unless of course, new ones are introduced.
Each case of “anxiety” has unique triggers that brings on the anxiety attacks. Unique thoughts.
And the other problem is that unless these individuals talk to people ABOUT these thoughts, nobody will ever know what they are going through… so diagnosis is impossible.
If a depressive thinks that their moods are normal, they won’t seek out help when that is what they really need. If a bulimic person thinks that all people purge to look thinner, then they will continue to do so.
And one could say “if they saw how happy other people are, maybe they’d think that it isn’t normal, and that they should get help”.
…Or they might think that they are fucked up, and that they are the only people who are different, who are beyond help.
I consider myself extremely fortunate for finding the resources and people I have thus far in life. I am eternally grateful. For if not, I have no idea where I would be. When I find myself thinking or behaving in a certain way, I have healthier variants that point me to say “this is not normal, something is up, what can I change? Do I need to think this way? Is this guiding me somewhere?”. It is only the refusal of these guides that lead to negative places.
Those who suffer from mental illness lose too many minutes of their lives mired in angst versus enjoying the limited time they have on Earth. And unfortunately because of their relative frames of reference, they may never realize that things could be better.
It is up to those that are in a healthier state to guide those that aren’t to help. To encourage them to open up. To empathize. Talk to them about therapy, counselling, or anything that might help them.
And while nobody is perfect and we all have our issues, if we spoke out to help one another it might make the world a better place.
So when you notice someone has a habit of being down, try and find out what’s up.
Surround yourself with the people who you believe are healthy role models and a good environment, so that you’ll hopefully feel when things aren’t going well.
No moments wasted in sadness. No life wasted in regret.
Live a life of giving, versus taking.
Nobody deserves to live life in pain.
To quote the end goal of Vipassiana meditation:
“May all beings be happy”.
But what about Jay? He seemed perfectly happy to me, there was no trace of me thinking he needed support. It came out of nowhere.
And those that suffer from mental issues may not even think to look for support.
They might THINK that they are in a good environment.
I can’t really say that there is, or that I know of a solution to these issues.
Do you have any suggestions?
Image Credit: Cover picture courtesy of Eddi van W. under the Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0 license.