• Michelle Partington

It all started with an equation.

So Blue Monday…. very widely advertised as one of the most depressive days for people. Where people worry that they can’t pay their bills, people receiving huge credit card bills from christmas shopping, people struggling because they are trying to stretch their pay packets for an extra week, where you get up to go to work in the dark cold mornings, and you drive home in the dark cold evenings. There are numerous reasons why ‘Blue Monday’ received so much press. It’s fantastic that a day that originated from one equation can be so big.

Did anyone stop to think how those who actually suffer depression must have been feeling? Most probably not very many people at all I would imagine! People actually live with this illness on a daily basis but is this widely publicised? Is this covered by all news networks throughout the day? Let me answer that for you…..no it is not. Actually, correction, the government mention it when they need votes, or they need popularity ratings. The ones who raise awareness are the ones who are actually struggling. People, everyone struggling with a mental illness all around the world are shouting VERY LOUDLY but to whom, and for wha?

Many people who receive support through our foundation have been starved of support and have found it so very difficult to source the support they so drastically need. It’s saddening to think that so many people suffer on a daily, actually on an hourly basis. Why oh why are human beings made to suffer so much. It truly makes me really angry that not enough attention is put on mental health and homelessness associated with mental health amongst other reasons.

Part of the work of Behind The Mask Foundation is provided welfare, peer and counselling support to the homeless community. For the last few weeks I have been handing food vouchers out and one gentleman has been there every single time. He is always so very grateful for the vouchers. Yesterday I went into town and there he was sitting in the same spot, huddled into the wall. Now, I was wrapped up but still felt the cold so I couldn’t begin to imagine how he was feeling. If I’ve been sat in the cold for a while I ache so he must be in agony. I popped into a nearby clothes shop and picked up a very thick, warm cardigan, thermal vest and trousers, woolly hat and thermal gloves. I return to the man and asked him if he wanted to go for something to eat. He was gobsmacked but took me up on my offer. We went for a cuppa and I also bought him a burger. We had a little chat and I finally learned his name. Greg had been made homeless 18 mths previous due to his mum passing away. He shared a council house with his mum but because his name wasn’t on the tenancy the council gave him 2 weeks to get out. So not only was he grieving for the loss of his dear mother, he was also homeless and ended up losing his job. Everything was stacked against him and there we sat yesterday.

Whilst we were sat eating and drinking our warm drinks I noticed people looking at us. A few people looked down their noses at us on their way past. How dare they! They have no idea what Greg has had to deal with every day of his life. It was so lovely to finally meet ‘that homeless guy opposite Lloyds’. As he was talking I looked him straight in the eye and I could see the pain pouring from them. Yet eyes that looked so very lost. I really didn’t want to leave him and I wanted to take him home with me but that wasn’t possible sadly. I signposted him to a couple of places locally who could help him and he seemed so very grateful. I handed him a few more meal vouchers to keep him going for a few days and got up to go. I slid the bag of clothes across to him discretely so it wasn’t obvious and said they were for him. He started to well up and it saddened me to see him like that. I gave him a hug and then left. I went back to a home I had been moaning about, moaning because my house was so cold. At least I was warm, dry and comfortable. At least I could snuggle up on the sofa with a blanket on to keep me warm. At least I had a home.

Now let’s complain again about Blue Monday. Let’s shout out about running up ridiculous bills, buying extravagant gifts that will just get pushed in a cupboard. Struggling because they are having to make their pay packet stretch another week. How do you think Greg felt about Blue Monday? I doubt he even knows it exists because many people didn’t, including me. The thing is that sadly Greg has Blue Monday, Blue Tuesday, Blue Wednesday….can you see where this is going….

If Blue Monday can become so huge and gain so much publicity and awareness then why can’t mental health illness as a whole? This is proof that one simple equation can make such a difference so imagine what many people standing together can achieve. Individually you can make a difference, together WE can make a difference. Please speak out, open up and share your struggles. Use Behind The Mask Foundation (www.behindthemaskfoundation.com), use other mental health services, grab the support of friends and family. Once you reach out you will realise you are not on your own.


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