I Didn’t Know What Mental Health Was Until My Friend Killed Himself
This week saw the 9th anniversary of my friend Erbie’s passing. He killed himself 9 years ago. I’ve written about it multiple times here in the past for those of you who are new to reading.
In a lot of ways his death is the reason I write this blog at a. His death is the reason I care so much about mental health, and it’s the reason I’ll never stop talking about it.
See before his death I didn’t even know mental health was a thing. I’d never heard it talked about. It was never highlighted or spoken about openly. Erbie’s death showed me that, not only was there a thing called mental health, but also that poor mental health can sometimes kill you. That’s a danger every kid should learn early on.
This wasn’t some time way in th past either, this was 2012. Absolutely no one should have to learn about mental health by experiencing their friends dying. That shouldn’t be how you find out what depression is. But for so many people it’s exactly how we learn.
A lot of our services and information come after tragedy. Instead of trying to educate young people on practical ways to maintain their mental health, we put emphasis on counselling services for people who are grieving over suicide. Of course these services are essential but there should be far more effort put into preventing the tragedy.
Of course, since 2012 the chat around mental health has become more mainstream. It’s no longer this uncomfortable vague thing that’s ignored. There are more people willing and able to say when they’re not feeling okay. There are more people now who are happy to lend an ear and help in any way they can.
I like to think that if Erbie was alive today he’d have felt comfortable opening up rather than taking his own life. I have to believe that.
The reason I’ll always talk about mental health is because I don’t want anyone to have to wait for tragedy to strike in order to find out what a mental health issue is. The more of us who talk about mental health the lower the chances of that ever happening again. That’s the goal to all of it.
If we can educate ourselves on mental health. If we can learn what depression is, or what schizophrenia is, then they stop being these huge unknowns. If we can learn the signs to look out for when someone is starting to depress then we can spot them early in ourselves and others. In that way, we can protect ourselves from tragedy. We can fortify ourselves through education.
If we do that, we can at least reduce the risk of a baptism of fire. We can’t completely prevent mental health issues, but we can prevent tragedy from being anyone’s first lesson in mental health.
Speaking from experience, suicide being your introduction to mental health is a disturbing and destructive experience, so let’s do what we can to prevent that from happening going forward.