Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Dorset Search and Rescue are proud to support the Mental Health Foundation's 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week. In the first quarter of 2020, mental health was a contributing factor to 75% of the missing people we looked for. Below is a personal account of mental health by one of our search technicians.

I am 1 in 4. This phrase is becoming more acceptable to hear but there is still a huge amount of stigma surrounding mental health. Years ago, anyone who vaguely mentioned having any mental health disorder were treated as lepers or worse.

I recently 'celebrated' my 50th Birthday under lockdown measures. To me this is a huge milestone. There are times when I've wondered if I'd ever make it this far. Not because I didn't want to but because living with depression and anxiety is exhausting, a constant battle in my head to check if I'm doing the right thing, am I a good enough person, friend, sister, daughter, mother, colleague.

Unless you have experience of similar problems it's fair to say you may not understand how this affects someone, but kindness goes a long way to supporting someone. Hence this year’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign to ’Be Kind’.

More companies seem to be getting better with regards to supporting employees needs when it comes to mental health but from personal experience it's often just a case of a token gesture of handing out some numbers to call and being told to be more positive. I have been made to feel inadequate, incompetent, unworthy and useless. I've been bullied, victimised, discriminated against and physically and verbally abused. It's clear that some people either don't understand or choose not to support you when you most need it. In a nutshell it has made my life hell and unbearable at times.

I love to help others, am always around to support friends and like to think I have a lot to offer so voluntary work has always appealed to me. I've previously mentioned how I became a Search Technician after a close friend completed suicide.

When someone you know decides to end their life it is impossible for those left behind to not feel guilty as well as incredibly sad. Like a lot of people, I could never bring myself to discuss the actual term suicide with him as I felt it would have a negative impact. After completing a Mental Health First Aid course with Dorset Search & Rescue, I have since learned that asking someone directly about their suicidal feelings can lower their anxiety and act as a deterrent. I will never know whether this could have helped him. Most suicidal people are undecided right up until the last moment and there may be clues in advance of this.

Aside from suicide, there are many different types of mental illness, many of which start in adolescence. The sooner we start to include mental health as part of overall health and wellbeing, I believe the more acceptance and understanding there will be of this. After all if you had toothache you'd go to the dentist, if you broke a bone you'd go to the doctor but if you can't stop crying or feel overwhelmed you are just expected to deal with it as part of life.

Social media is a great tool for communication but can have a significant damaging affect if you are feeling low. You only have to look at how many well-known people have completed suicide after being trolled on social media or bullied elsewhere. This has got to stop.

Personally, I've learned a lot from experiences and courses such as Mental Health First Aid - never assume you know what anyone else is dealing with. Anyone can experience mental health disorders at any time in their life although problems can often stem from adolescence. Exercise can make a huge difference - it is my current drug of choice. Just a little more compassion, respect and empathy towards others would go a long way. Hopefully, employers will take Mental Health as seriously as physical illnesses and one day both Mental and Physical Health will just be known as Health.

Be Kind to one another. 💙

Words by Nancy de Beer

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