At times it’s easy to forget that just because someone doesn’t look ill doesn’t mean they’re not, especially when it comes to mental health.
By sharing two contrasting photos of herself when she was having suicidal thoughts, Milly Smith, the owner of Instagram account Self Love Clubb, has given a stark reminder of the dangers caused by assumption.
“‘You don’t look suicidal’... I remember these words coming from the [doctor’s] mouth right after I’d just told him that I was having thoughts of suicide,” she posted, recalling an experience as a teenager.
“I remember in that moment my 14-year-old self felt invalidation, dumb and embarrassed; something no one in that mindset should have to feel.
“I left feeling confused. What was I supposed to look like? A bottle of pills in one hand and a suicide note in the other? Those words nearly cost me my life, that judgment, those stupid, stupid words.”
Smith then shared with her followers that she later attempted to take her own life.
“I remember thinking to myself ‘I can’t get help, I don’t look suicidal, I don’t fit the bill, they’ll laugh at me,’” she wrote.
“I remember thinking I must have looked the part, must have been wearing the suicidal costume properly when I woke up in resus [resuscitation] as all around me were concerned, worried and sad faces.
“By then this could have been too late, I might not have been there to see those sad faces if my partner hadn’t [...] saved my life.”
The social media user goes on to reiterate the dangers in believing that mental health struggles have a certain “face or a look”.
And to prove it she shared two photos of herself, saying: “In both these photos I’m suicidal, perhaps not in the same way but on both of these days I had suicidal thoughts racing around.
“Stop the judgement. Stop the stigma.”
With more than 22,000 likes and hundreds of comments at time of writing, her post has opened up a dialogue, with people sharing similar situations.
“Read your comment on the news and just wanted to say your comment hit me like nothing I've experienced, it took everything I had to keep a tidal wave of tears from coming, took me totally by surprise and touched me more than I care to admit,” one user wrote.
“I thought all these years it was me who was totally inept at explaining things, maybe it isn't after all.”
“I was in similar situation at 14, actually took an overdose, had medical treatment, assessed by a GP who told me I needed to stop worrying about school (news to me?). Got no further help and ended up worse of state. Nobody should be made to feel like that!” another user posted.
Another commented: “My boss told me that I didn't look depressed. I have never felt so silly in my life. I read this and cried. Thank you for sharing.”
With statistics showing UK male suicide rates decreased last year, but among women the rate increased to its highest in a decade, creating an honest conversation like this around mental health has never been more vitally important.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can speak to Mind on 0300 123 3393, or get in touch with the Samaritans who offer a listening service open 24 hours a day on 116 123 (UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
Alternatively, The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25, available on 0808 808 4994 or via email (email@example.com).