Last week, I republished an article originally published back in 2021 on the subject of preparing a MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID KIT:
I promised that I would unpack my own MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID KIT with you. Today I am going to look closely at to me one of the most important parts of a MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID KIT :
Contact information of reliable people to call when you feel down
I thought I had this in the bag….I really thought that if I was ever in a stressful predicament and I needed to talk to someone I trusted, I knew who I would call. But this is what happened when I was in a mental health emergency….
I have heard some say that when it comes to friendships or relationships – no matter how many people you know, or are acquainted with, really there will likely be only two or three that you feel you could really trust with anything – friends so close you can depend on them in any situation.
For me….right at the top of that list I would put my youngest sister Milly. I have always felt especially close to her, for many years she was my reason to be the best version of me. She is my darling. She knew I was having great challenges because people were targeting me over my connection with Jack.
A close second is my bestie Marta. I was able to share accommodation with Marta when I first moved to London. I worked l closely with her. I grew to respect and admire her greatly. She is a talented, zealous, intelligent and articulate woman. She is a psychologist – and a very good one – and I felt I could discuss anything with her at all. She was aware of the challenges I had been facing in connection with Jack.
I had two other friends – a married couple who I was very close to. He had known my mum when she was in her twenties. They had already given me a huge amount of advice and support. They also had a lot of influence, due to a career which has made them famous. They were aware of the stress I was under and had promised I could call them anytime I needed to talk.
But when was in a mental health emergency – what happened?
Milly was in a remote part of Africa, and I could not get through to her. Marta was also overseas and I could not get through to her. The couple I was close to….his phone was switched off because he was in important meetings, she had just changed her number and had not yet shared her new number.
I saw hundreds of people everyday – colleagues, neighbours, people in my social circle, people I thought were close friends but who turned out not to be prepared to get involved in a complex situation – I did not know who I could trust with revealing the depths of my despair. I felt incredibly alone. I think people around me were detecting that I was starting to unravel. But how could I even begin to explain to them the scale of the challenges that I was facing ever since I had met Jack. I did not want to blame Jack, but neither did I trust him, yet I did not want to drag him down. I felt cornered, pushed, pushed, pushed to the edge. Of course…in the eye of the storm, I made a foolish decision…I did not go home….I went to a park and sat and lingered in my pain. I just could not bear the possibility of seeing Jack again that day.
…as you may know if you have read my past posts…later than night, I was seriously in the wrong place at the wrong time. The following morning, I was found by a security guard who called an ambulance. Just over a week later, I had fled London and was hiding away with family in a different part of the country, miles away from my life and work and home and friends – so that I could recover from my injuries and the trauma of what occurred that night. But I was more plagued by the intense stress of the previous two years than I was the events of that night.
My own experience has taught me that keeping my MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID KIT up-to-date at all times is important. I thought that if I was ever in a stressful predicament, I could turn to one of my closest and most trusted companions. Yet when I was in a mental health emergency, I found that I could not get through to any of the people I was desperate to talk to.
So now….well…now I have an up-to-date list. My list is also longer!
I think most of us learn as we grow that sometimes the people we find fun and enjoy the company of are really not reliable in a stressful challenge or a crisis. We realize that we need mature and balanced people in our lives – they may not be available to socialize with regularly, but they have the empathy, experience and practical wisdom to be reliable when we are in a desperate situation.
Since I have experienced a traumatic and heartbreaking challenge, I have learnt that I have a lot of mature friends whom I can trust to listen and understand and not overreact. More of my friends than I realized have been through similar experiences. It was because we have been more willing to have conversations about mental health that I was able to learn just how much empathy and understanding some of my friends really did have. Some of them have been through mental health emergencies and they understand that in a desperate moment of despair – hearing the voice of someone who cares deeply about you is so important.
How about your MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID KIT – who would you call if you are feeling down or overwhelmed with stress? Are the people on your list in the country? Are they likely to be tied up with work or meetings and perhaps have their phones switched off? Have they recently changed their number?
Please do make sure that you have an up-to-date list of the phone numbers of friends who you could turn to in a mental health emergency. If your phone might run out of battery…make sure that list is also written down in a diary of a piece of paper in your purse or wallet. You really do not know when you may need it!