With ribbons and messages of hope on motorway bridges, and sculptures of men on top of buildings, this week is suicide awareness week. And while that might not make for super light week-day reading, statistically more and more of us are fighting against the darkness of depression. In fact, 1 in 4 people in the UK report a struggle with a mental health problem every year.
20% of those people have suicidal thoughts.
Almost 7% of them have made a suicidal attempt.
And more than 7% are currently self harming.
Numbers. Numbers on a page.
So, how about this?
Close your eyes.
… Go ahead. Close your eyes and picture four of your precious family and friends.
Statistically, at least one of them is currently suffering.
It could feel like a slow, endless suffocation.
It could feel like their drowning in a cavernous nothingness, when all around them is joy.
Or it could feel like a thousand tiny knives through their chest, with every breath they take.
Maybe there’s a reason they feel like that. There may be no reason at all.
But at least one of those people you have in your mind is fighting a war you can’t see.
So, sure, maybe it’s a bit deep for that quick tap, swipe and scan you were going to have with your brew today, but important.
Really fucking important.
It’s a sad truth that finding words to describe what’s happening inside you, the conflict within your own self, is usually what isolates sufferers from those that care most about them. A gulf forms, between them and the rest of the world, with all the things they can’t say or don’t have the vocabulary to describe in between.
That’s why Polish artist Dawid Planeta took to his art to find solace, to depict his journey through depression, and all the things he couldn’t say. In his work, a small man travels a vast, dark world – dense and weighted with grey and black, misted and mysterious, bleak and unyielding. “It’s a story of a man descending into darkness and chaos in search of himself,” Planeta explains.
The small figure wanders through the fog-filled labyrinth alone, with only a pin prick of light to guide him, bravely facing the giant beasts he meets along his way – their glowing eyes helping him illuminate the darkness.
It’s a poignant depiction of his self-exploration in the darkest of times but one that also summons hope.
“One challenge at a time, I try to turn into the face of fear and tell it “you are not my master, you are the product of my self and I am your master.” I look into the monster’s eyes until it disappears. Then I am free.” ― Rohvannyn Shaw
We’d encourage you to take a look at Dawid’s work and the story it tells. While you do, know that it’s okay not to be okay. Know that the chasm between you and those around you is a mirage of darkness and fear and can be breached by just stretching out your hand.
And for those watching someone go through this fight … all you ever have to do for someone is hold that hand. Never underestimate the power in that simple gesture.