Mental Health Monday: It's Time to Talk
Earlier today I read a harrowing story about a father, Dean, whose daughter Melina had taken her own life whilst away at university.
No one knew how desperately Melina was struggling; her friends and family only knew that she was withdrawn and had requested to be left alone. They’d all believed her explanation that she was inundated with college work and needed time to complete it.
Dean’s despair is all too evident – his feelings of hopelessness and utter devastation about the death of his beautiful daughter. He is tortured by what he perceives to be his inaction and inability to see how distraught she was. Melina had become increasingly isolated and had reneged countless times on plans she’d made to see friends and family and began ignoring phone calls and messages. She had plausible explanations – and managed to convince everyone she was fine. Dean berates himself for not heeding the warning signs, for not realising her anguish, for not intervening. His pain is palpable. He explains that all his daughter’s troubles (which she detailed in her suicide letter) were solvable. Financial worries, relationship strains, and anxiety about her university course had created problems that Melina thought were insurmountable. If only she had spoken to someone about how low she was feeling. Sadly, it’s too late. Whatever her reasons were for not talking through her problems, she must have felt completely unable to do so. Melina’s father is encouraging others who are struggling to reach out for the help they need. We have made great strides in talking about our mental health, with the deaths by suicide of high profile people like Robin Williams bringing the conversation to the fore. But it isn’t enough. Mental health is still stigmatised, and people often find talking about their mental health - in particular suicidal feelings - overwhelming and terrifying. Whilst there are other reasons for the reluctance to talk, such as feelings of shame and guilt and fear that expressing thoughts of suicide makes someone weak and selfish, stigma still plays a significant part in hindering people asking for help. Mental health is discussed far more openly now, but Melina’s death shows that there is still a long way to go. Reaching out to family or friends or to professional organisations can be invaluable. Help is available from organisations such as The Samaritans, MIND, and Rethink Mental Illnessall of whom have information about what to do in an emergency. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy. It's time to talk.