Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)
Lawrence (Lol) Butterfield has been advising us on the current storyline with Darrell (pictured). A qualified nurse, Lol has worked in the mental health field for 30 years and is the author of the book Sticks and Stones, which aims to tackle the stigma and discrimination of mental health.
My work advising Darrell on his depression storyline gave me much pleasure. If pleasure is the right word to describe such a tragic and frustrating turn of events for Darrell? My role is to attempt to provide realism and sensitivity to his plight. However this is not always possible when people’s behaviour affects those around them in such devastating ways.
Welcome to the world of mental illness. Any of us could experience this at any time in our lives. In fact statistically one in four of us will.
Darrell may be struggling at the moment but this will not last forever. If the right help is made available, the prognosis is good for depression. We have to be willing to accept help and not stigmatise ourselves by shunning the support offered. We must also try to remain hopeful. Without hope we have nothing.
Sadly many men in particular feel ashamed to be open and honest when mentally unwell. They see this as a slight on their masculinity. This is why we have twice as many women as men visiting their GPs for mental health conditions, even though men experience the same number.
Many men go into denial when faced with mental illness and may use alcohol or illicit substances as a negative coping strategy. Mental illness in any form not only effects the person but those close to them. Darrell’s case is no exception. People can be left feeling helpless and at a loss as to what to do next.
If the person with depression does not seem to be making any progress, people can then feel as if they are to blame. Mental illness takes no prisoners. It is indiscriminate.
We should all remember this when judging those with any kind of mental illness.
I speak as a qualified mental health nurse with over 30 years of clinical experience. I have also suffered from depression so have 'lived experience'. I therefore speak as the nurse and the patient.
Darrell has clearly hit rock bottom. He now needs to try to climb back out of the pit of despair he finds himself in. This is never easy. His self esteem and confidence have been shattered, his thinking will have become dysfunctional, even paranoid. His window on the world around him differs greatly from that of others.
To empathise with Darrell, we have to try to see the world through his eyes as he views it now, and support and help him to try to think and see things differently. He has experienced loss and betrayal, as he sees it.
He doesn't need sympathy, but empathy. If Darrell were helpless at a bottom of a well, we would try to encourage him to climb out, maybe even help him. This is what empathy is. Sympathy would be to look down on him crying, becoming helpless ourselves. This approach helps nobody.
While Darrell will ultimately have to take responsibility for his own actions, those around him must not disempower him from doing this. Once his mood has lifted and he can see more clearly, the recovery process begins. Unlike a broken arm or leg it is difficult to place a timespan on how long his recovery will take. Mental health differs from physical health in that many other external factors can all impinge on any progress made.
All those who care can do now is be there for him. If they experienced the same despair, they would expect no less from him.
Picture shows Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)