MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK: DEAR JOHN
Everyone should be taking mental well-being as seriously as the physical. The brain is the most powerful muscle we have, and for those not working in physically demanding jobs, mental ill-health can effect productivity in the same way a broken arm would effect the productivity of a builder.
Opinium carried out a nationwide survey of 2,000 people and found 50% felt guilty for taking time off for mental health, despite 56% of those feeling better for doing so. Only 19% told their managers they were struggling with mental health, a third didn't think it was necessary, a quarter didn't think their managers would be able to help, while a fifth didn't think it appropriate.
To help tackle the stigma around mental health, we've
started an emotionally charged campaign to highlight the tragic effects mental-ill health can have, not just on the sufferer, but on those left behind. Through a series of letters to loved ones who lost their battle to mental ill-health, we hope our campaign will make mental health normal in the BIG little LDN workplace, and for anyone who is suffering to know we understand, and it's ok to not be ok all the time.
We worked with John Slavin when he was a much loved motoring journalist. Despite his struggles with depression, John bought happiness to everyone around him. He was a good soul, a kind and caring friend, a talented writer and funny. Really, really funny. John's Mother hope's our letter will help others who are considering suicide to realise that the world is much better with them in it.
My mind is blank. I want to write something. You’d know what to write. Obviously. Everyday was a learning day sat next to you. Forever making me Google words to find out their meaning. Remember that time me you had me and Laura in stitches about “Defenestration” (FYI I just had to Google, "The art of throwing someone out the window" to find it again).
I don’t understand how someone so loved could feel so alone. I’ll be asking myself that question for the rest of my life.
I’ve thought about you everyday since that call. 3rd Jan 2018. I’ll never forget that feeling of total confusion, sharply followed by a blow to my gut. A week later, with about five hours sleep, there was a genuine concern from the people in my office who knew. The exact words were, “You look like shit. Go home.” I went home and slept for 14 hours.
It was the stillness and total silence of the night that kept me awake. Just thinking about how deeply sad you must have been, broke my heart into a million pieces night after night and as they sunk to the pit of my stomach, I'd start Googling you, reading your articles and watching videos of you trying to type with plastic tubes on your fingers while you "worked from home" or your attempts to destroy an indestructible torch. Then I’d Google stupid stuff, like when and how and think of your poor body.
Over a year has passed and I still can’t talk out loud about you without this massive lump lodging itself in the back of my throat. Then my voice goes all weird and my eyes get all watery and I start talking really bluntly to avoid making the other person witnessing a total meltdown but also to convince myself that I’m ok with it. But I’m not John. I’m not ok about it and I don’t think I ever will be. This tough bravado (you’d be impressed) I’ve got down to a T. If I have to talk about you, I say it so fast, like it’s totally matter of fact, before quickly moving onto the next part of the sentence. It takes some mental building up before I start but at least I avoid my weird blotchy face and the awkward look on the other persons.
I know the last thing you wanted to do is upset anyone and it literally breaks my heart that you believed the world would be a better place without you in it because it isn't. That’s why I’m so sad John. Why didn’t you just call me? We could have had a chat. You could have got me in trouble with my Husband. Again! Ha ha, “Who's John?!”
You were the greatest road trip buddy from London to Epsom to Birmingham and back. That Mitsubishi has never known so many laughs as we battled through the traffic with stupid chat, I wish for the life of me I could remember, but as I said; my mind is blank. Who is going to answer my random questions about engines and BHP now?
I just hope now you have found the peace you longed for.
Until we meet again.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is an amazing charity leading the movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
They offer a confidential helpline and web chat service for those who have hit a crisis point in their lives, support for those bereaved by suicide, community meet ups and have run notable marketing campaigns with the likes of Prince William and Rio Ferdinand for #BestManProject and with Chris Hughes for #DontBottleItUp.