In the bad old days, we never spoke publicly about mental health. Physical ailments could be explained, understood, and sympathised over – but the stigma around depression made it far more difficult for people to open up.
Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Fearne Cotton, Selena Gomez, Ryan Reynolds, and countless others in the spotlight speaking out about their struggles with mental wellness, things are very different: the formerly taboo topic is well on its way to becoming something we can discuss with friends over coffee. It is something that we recognise can affect anyone, at any time – and this, in turn, has encouraged us to be far more empathetic and understanding about the plights of others. A fact which was made abundantly clear by hairdresser Kate Langman’s recent post to the Love What Matters page on Facebook.
She recalled an incident where she had spotted a young woman frantically examining all of the hair-softening products at her salon. When Langman approached to see if the customer needed any help, the woman began to open up about her struggles with mental health.
“[She] suffered with a very deep depression,” explained Langman. “She couldn’t get out of her bed for six months. Which meant she didn’t wash her hair or brush it.”
As a result, the woman’s hair had become “so matted that it felt like she literally had rocks on the back of her head.”
She couldn’t get out of her bed for six months. Which meant she didn’t wash her hair or brush it.
After their chat, the woman agreed to come in for an appointment for the next day – but didn’t show up. She rescheduled for two weeks later and, again, cancelled at the last moment.
“I figured she wasn’t going to ever end up coming in again,” said Langman. “It actually kind of broke my heart. I wanted to help her so much.”
Finally, one day – towards the end of Langman’s shift – the woman returned, and asked if she could have her hair done because she had “finally got herself out of bed again”.
Langman immediately agreed, despite the time, insisting that she didn’t care how late she stayed: she wanted to make sure that this woman was taken care of properly.
“She wanted to keep it on the longer side [and], most of the time, the advice is to just cut it off. But I wanted to make this work for her. I wanted her to know how hard I was going to try to make her feel great again.”
Langman spent over eight and a half hours working on the girl’s hair, combing it out, conditioning it, colouring it, and cutting it into a new style. “All of this time, I'm just telling myself to keep going, that this is going to be all so worth it,” she said.
And, as it turns out, she was proven correct.
Langman explained that the woman’s face brightened up as she realised that she could not only run her fingers through her hair again, but that she finally felt more like herself.
“I changed someone's life today and I'll never ever forget it,” she added.
Langman finished by penning a message to her customer, who she chose not to identify by name in the Facebook post.
“If this ever makes its way back to her, I want her to know how great, wonderful, kind, loving, and how strong of a person she is,” she said. “And not only those things, but how beautiful she is… she deserves nothing but happiness, and I'm so thankful and so grateful I got to help with her first step.”
Mental health is an issue that affects many of us, but women in particular can be vulnerable to it: the most recent figures from the NHS show that one in five women in the UK have reported a mental illness in recent years, compared to one in eight men.
While the symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between different people, doctors have said that the most common is that “you feel sad, hopeless, and lose interest in things you used to enjoy”.
Other symptoms include:
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling irritable
- Finding it difficult to make decisions
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Low sex drive
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Difficulties with concentration
There are many other symptoms of depression and you’re unlikely to experience all of them at once.
Mental health experts advise that you visit your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks.
You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.
Images: Facebook / Love What Matters