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Lifestyle Health and Fitness Living In Malta

How Can Maltese People Ease The Pain Of Mental Health Problems?

13 steps that could save someone's life

Suicide is the 17th highest cause of death in Malta. How's that for a Monday afternoon fun fact? Well, the truth doesn't sugar-coat anything, and the even harder truth is that mental health affects many of us. 

Between January 2005 and October 2016, 302 people died by suicide in Malta; 36 of these took place in 2005 alone. In the United Kingdom, suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20 to 49. The sad thing about these statistics is that, more often than not, each and every one of these deaths can be prevented.

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Between January 2005 and October 2016, 302 people died by suicide in Malta

The way mental health issues are perceived is often worrying. It makes sufferers reluctant to talk about issues and to share any problems they might have. Depression, for example, is something very personal; it's an issue which affects someone’s worldview and the way they interact with others. As a nation, we need to find a way to be able to talk about such matters if we’re ever to begin to foster an environment which is welcoming to those who are facing these harrowing realities.

We often look towards the state and demand that it takes action. But there are many times when we should stop and think whether there is anything that we can do ourselves. 

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Learn how to read the signs. Has it been a while since you heard from a particular friend? Are you noticing that a member of your family is increasingly withdrawing into himself/herself?

These are just a few ways we can change our attitudes to help ease the pain of people suffering with mental health issues in Malta:

1. Showing a little bit of courtesy

Courtesy and common politeness never go out of fashion. Thanking someone, wishing them a good day, smiling or acknowledging others – they can go a long way, particularly when they may feel like they are invisible to the world.

2. Performing a random act of kindness

If you know someone who is suffering from depression, a random act of kindness can make their day. Be practical – offer to do their laundry, take them a bowl of soup, treat them to something small if you can – you won’t take away their pain but their day will feel brighter.

3. Listening

This is a tricky one. Learn how to read the signs. Has it been a while since you heard from a particular friend? Are you noticing that a member of your family is increasingly withdrawing into himself/herself? Is there more to that person’s cryptic statuses on Facebook? 

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4. Not comparing notes

One often meets people who need to match up what you are feeling with what they are feeling. If you’re feeling down, they’re feeling worse; if you have a headache, theirs is a migraine, etc. Depression, anxiety and other mental health problems are very personal and very serious. If someone is opening up to you, try and listen without having to share your own story.

5. Not defaulting to the thought that – it's just an act

People with mental health problems are not putting on an act to spend the day lounging about in pyjamas. They're seeking attention, and they're not making it up. The pain feels very real to them. The three metres to the shower do feel like a trek. They would love to go to that party, but they really can’t face people. 

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6. Not letting your opinion rest on stereotypes

"Yes, I’m still a real man / No, it’s not because I’m a woman" – having to respond in this way to stereotypes which should no longer exist makes it harder for people to talk about their issues and seek help. Many men – particularly young men – feel they are alone and are reluctant to talk about their issues for fear of being judged. Women – particularly older women – are prone to be labelled as “emotional” if they speak out. 

7. Understanding that people suffering from mental health issues are not a danger to society

Chances are that, unless someone has reached out to you, you'll have no clue about their illness. They are not psychopaths; nor sociopaths, and it’s not contagious.

8. Minding your language 

If you live in Malta, you’ve probably heard one of the following: “dak mhux tajjeb għal man-nies,” “dak stramb,” “għandu dwejjaq fuqu,” “għandu breakdown qawwi.” People who are suffering have learned to brush it off... but it still hurts.

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Chances are that, unless someone has reached out to you, you'll have no clue about their illness. They are not psychopaths; nor sociopaths, and it’s not contagious.

9. Trying to understand, but not judging

Every person experiences their own condition in a different way. Some may show it while others might be good at hiding it. Regardless of who you’re dealing with, don’t pass judgement.

10. Remembering that if someone is no longer in the limelight – there's probably a reason for it 

Depression affects mostly those on the margins of society. People who are not on the margins are often driven there. Even if an individual was once popular – it doesn't mean they're immune to mental health problems. They are not, and could end up retreating into solitude. Invites to parties and dinners will stop coming to them. 

If you’re always invisible to others, it becomes easier for you to be forgotten. If people know you’re depressed and they can’t handle it, they are likely to ignore you. Don’t be that sort of person. Instead of passing it off with a "kemm ilhu ma jidher" comment, give the guy a call. 

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Depression affects mostly those on the margins of society. People who are not on the margins are often driven to the margins.

11. Reaching out 

People suffering from a mental health problems often feel lonely and vulnerable. Try and see things from their perspective and let them know they're still wanted.

12. Not taking things for granted

Don't underestimate what mental health sufferers go through, expensive treatment, visits to psychologists, annoying side effects from medication and the fact that it doesn’t solve everything.

13. Helping to spread awareness

Empathy and tolerance could save someone's life, or they could just improve upon their day. Share these tips with a friend, it will make a difference to someone who is suffering – whether in silence or not. 

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Start with step 13 right now – share this post on Facebook to spread awareness

READ NEXT: I Was Hospitalised With Clinical Depression At Twenty-Two

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