Happy Miserable New Year

Saturday, 2nd January 2010 at 11:44 UTC 1 comment

It sucks to be an activist, continuously peeing on people’s parades, be they fashion parades with the kind of prices seen in Primark and WalMart or parade of holiday destinations supplied by EasyJet and Jet2. This is probably just another one of those occasions – after all, who’d want to talk about suicide on the day after New Years day?

Yesterday was the most common day for suicides in Britain. It was also the 10th anniversary of the day with the highest occurrence of suicide in Britain since records began. It was also the 3rd anniversary of one of my closest (albeit not actually terribly close) scrapes – an incident where I considered a New Year swim in the River Ouse. I’m still not totally sure how I justified not doing it at the time, but I’m grateful I didn’t.

I was talking to my housemate as we walked back from York Minster where we saw in the New Year with the crowds, as we have done the last 4 or more years. Talking about the year ahead, the snow and our past experiences of New Year relative to where we are now, I pointed out how very different it felt to be admiring the Ouse under the moonlight this year. It felt genuinely good to be able to look back and say “I’ve come a long way since that year”.

I’m not a psychologist; my housemate is, and will wake up shortly, be informed of this blog post and probably write a comment the length of an essay at me – do watch out for it, and take note, because they know what they’re on about. With that out of the way, experience informs me that the problem lies in the fact that depression is nine 10ths isolation, and that isolation makes people depressed, and that not feeling like having a party on New Years Eve makes people feel like failures, rejects and very very isolated. Add to this the sense of “oh God, not another year” and “what did I do with the last year?”, and you have a recipe for the kind of utter hopelessness that makes people run for the emergency exits. Its probably not rocket science, as they say, but it is based on personal experience.

I do wonder just how many of the people in the crowd at the Minster on New Years Eve are searching for an escape from isolation by playing along, or think that putting on a brave face and meeting the New Year with a booze-fuelled grin is the way forwards into a year they’re quite sure won’t actually be any better than the last.

Judging by some status updates I read on New Year’s Day, this year isn’t a lot different as far as depression is concerned. It’ll be a hard feeling to shake for some people, for others they’ll just get back on with life. For some the isolation will fade a little as everyone else comes back to Earth, but for others it will only intensify as the events they fear come to pass.

If you’re recognising yourself in the above, tell someone. Its that first step, often the hardest but also the most important. If you see depression as the result of isolation rather than failure, its a whole different ball game. Its not how many people you surround yourself with, its the quality of the interactions you have with them. And just because you can’t see why anything is positive doesn’t mean nothing is. Most things just aren’t one-sided, no matter how much your sense of failure tells you they are.

I hope this post is comfort for the disturbed, but also a bit disturbing for those having a nice time unsullied by the Depressed. These people exist. They are around you constantly. They’re probably some of your friends even if you don’t realise it, or don’t want to. We should all resolve to be better at looking after each other, and invest some effort in making our friend’s lives better, understanding their problems and so forth. By all means have a Happy New Year, but don’t turn away from those who won’t.

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Entry filed under: Community, Mental Health, Personal.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. brainduck  |  Saturday, 2nd January 2010 at 21:50 UTC

    http://www.samaritans.org/ 08457 90 90 90 jo@samaritans.org

    I’m not a treating-people-psychologist, and pretty useless unless you’re a rat wondering how best to motivate yourself to press a lever. In which case, if you’re reading this, please can I study you?

    The NYD suicide peak is a bit of an anomaly, since over a month the rate is about what you’d expect – suicides seem to time-shift by a week or two, but more don’t occur.
    There’s some suggestion that suicide rates increase in the spring, probably because people start to feel better, and get round to carrying out planned suicides (as with the first few weeks of antidepressants). However there’s not overall a massive difference in completed suicide at any time of year.

    Mind’s got a reasonable lay summary on actual risk factors for suicide: http://www.mind.org.uk/help/research_and_policy/statistics_2_suicide which I’d very much recommend – whilst social isolation is certainly a risk factor, a lot of suicide risk is very much structural, demographic or political. Suicide can be seen as a political / organisational problem like ‘accidents’, on a population level it’s not some special thing out there that we can’t change, separate from other causes of death.

    For a more technical look http://cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr/ or the ONS site for manylots stats.
    BTW have I forced you to read ‘The Spirit Level’ yet? http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/why/evidence/mental-health

    Look after each other. But really doing that means more than just looking after your friends when they’re feeling shit, important as that is. It means sorting out the mess we’re all in too.

    Happy New Year!

    Reply

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